As Andy’s son David aptly put it, ‘That’s far, eh!’
It’s the last night of the year …and our last night at home before we fly to Cairo for the start of the 2015 Tour d’Afrique. This post is a joint effort – Andy is absorbed in lists, boxes and bags. We’ll write together from Cairo. After that I’ll put posts up on the basis of talking and writing to him.
We’re spending a week in Cairo before the start of the ride and taking my bike along too so we can explore the city surroundings. The bikes were boxed for the flight a few days ago, the suitcases are more or less packed and all the ‘expedition gear’ is organized in bags ready for tomorrow. The plan for the rest of this New Year’s Eve is to drink champagne, grill some steak and have a good night’s sleep.
The enormity of Andy’s ride has been creeping up on us over the past few days. For me it’s been about thinking how I’d be feeling if I were doing the ride with him…a lot excited, a bit apprehensive, and impatient to get going. I’d actually be more concerned about getting saddlesores than about being fit enough to finish…fitness one can manage, staying healthy on a trip like this has an element of good fortune to it.
There will be 54 riders, of whom 13 are women. The age distribution is in two groups: the 20 somethings who don’t yet work or don’t have to. And the 50 plus people who have worked and now don’t. My wish for Andy is that he will meet up with some like-minded people who will provide good humoured company, encouragement and support when he needs it, and as they all get fitter, some competition down the road.
The 12 000 kms between Cairo and Capetown is in 8 stages. Each stage is between 500 and 900 kms and typically from 4 to 6 days long. The average ride per day over the whole trip is 123 Kms. The first 2000 kms to Khartoum in Sudan is fairly flat. Khartoum to Addis is not. At a minimum, you need to arrive at the start fit enough to get through the first 6 consecutive days of riding into Luxor; then you’re on your way.
Some people, like Andy, are doing all 8 stages; others are joining the ride for one or more. The organisers warn people joining later stages that they will have to keep up with a group of saddle toughened super fit riders.
There’s been endless talk on the blogs about the right bike to take, and the best tyres to put on it. Opinions obviously differ. Andy is riding his tried and trusted Elsworthy with Shimoda components. It’s basically a mountain bike with 29 inch tyres, which he’s had for 4 years. It’s never done over 100 kms in one day so this ride will be new territory for both it and its owner. It’s light enough, strong enough and fairly low maintenance. I’m hoping that both bike and owner will arrive in Capetown in equally good shape.