Day 121, stage 94, 90km
Start, Municipal Camp Yzerfontein
Finish, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
At 6am on Saturday morning May 11, 2013, the last day of the 2013 Tour d’Afrique, it was freezing cold. There were competing theories. Do you get on your bike early and hope that you will warm up as you cycle, or do you stay wrapped up, wait for the sun to do its work and leave later. In the end most people left early. It had been about 3C when we work up and about 6C at 7:30, by which time most people had left. Once we hit the road the temperature dropped back to 4C. My fingers were frostbitten. It was painful. Fortunately, after only 7 or 8km we came to a farm shop that served tea. We all stopped and entered the warm cocoon for coffee, tea, hot chocolate and scones. The farm shop could have been in Port Dover or some other seaside town in South Western Ontario – full of crafts and curios and preserves and knick-knacks – or even Fanny’s Farm shop in Surrey near our house in Merstham. The only difference was that here you could go out in the back garden and see lions.
Reluctantly we left the warmth of the farm shop and got back on our bikes. We had a full and more or less formal day ahead of us. We had to be at our lunch stop at the beach 60km south of Yzerfontein by 11am for official photos and stuff. We had to be ready for the police led convoy for the final 30km into Cape Town by 12:00 noon. And we had to be at the V&A waterfront amphi-theatre for the closing ceremony by 2pm. It was now a military operation and we had our marching orders. So, off we went.
Many of the younger riders were ready to celebrate. They had bottles of champagne in the bottle racks and camel backs. They were taking photos of anything that moved. They were happy. Many of the older riders were a little more subdued. At the lunch stop I didn’t feel in a celebratory mood at all. I felt happy. I felt pleased with what I had accomplished. But I really just felt like going off and being alone for a while. It was sort of anti-climatic. But I had some champagne that was offered. I had some pictures taken and didn’t skulk off. I had the 30km convoy into town to get into the mood.
Convoys are never fun. They are a necessity, something to be gotten through. This one was no different. We had been told that the convoy would not stop for anyone. If you had a puncture you and your bike would get in the truck. Simple as that. So it was rather ironic that Bridget, who won the women’s race, punctured just as we were setting off. Everything came to a halt. They tried to pump it up. No go. And unused bike was quickly pulled off the truck and she had a new ride. We were just starting up again when there was a cry from Tess at the back: “oh no! My chain just broke!”. Unbelievable but true. A quick fix and five minutes later we are finally on our way. And so it goes. The police took us along the bus lanes, through every red light and to the heart of the V&A by 1:45pm. Mission accomplished. I had finished. I had achieved EFI.
We parked out bikes, came back to the amphitheater, were handed champagne in Styrofoam cups and a handful of pretzels and the show began. Flags, some speeches, some medals and awards, a band, strangers cheering – all very ‘celebrity envy’ stuff. The 30km hadn’t shifted my mood that much. I slipped away to the hotel as soon as I could. I had a few hours to myself before the closing party.
Thankfully the party was very informal, lots of milling and chatting and drinking; then some eating, then a slide show of some really very good photos many people had taken over the last 4 months. Alex B gave a good tribute to staff and Phil Howard sang a song he had written about the Tour that was great fun. A DJ took over and we all bopped for a while. I was back at the hotel and in bed by midnight. Many of the younger riders – champagne still in camel backs for all I know – went off to clubs. I believe most were eventually able to find their way back to the hotel.
Tomorrow is sorting, packing and saying goodbye to good friends. Early Monday morning I go to the airport for my flight back to Dar.