The World’s Most Scenic Cycle Race
“Suikerbossie sal jou hê,
Suikerbossie sal jou hê,
Wat sal jou bene daarvan sê?”
The cheerful singing of the throngs of people warned me, and my legs (bene), of the impending hill.
Translated into English as “Sugar Bush”, there is nothing sweet about Suikerbossie, the last (and sometimes brutal) hill of the world’s most scenic cycle race. The year was 1995 and I was cycling in my first major cycling event, just 10km from the finish of a 105km route around the Cape Peninsula.
This year, 25 days from now, I’ll be cycling in my 10th Argus Cycle Tour.
Do I love cycling? No. Not even close.
But I love Cape Town and I love The Argus race and to me, the two are inextricably intertwined.
The Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour is the world’s biggest individually timed cycle event and is held annually on the second Sunday in March. Affectionately known as “The Argus” it attracts over 35,000 cyclists each year. It’s also a day when Cape Town grinds to a proverbial halt. If you live in Cape Town and you’re not cycling the race, you’re out on the course, cheering, singing and supporting your friends, neighbours and family members who are cycling.
This is no question that Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Thus, it is a fair assumption that The Argus could very well be the world’s most scenic cycle race.
The race starts in the heart of the Cape Town CBD, under the shadow of the world-famous Table Mountain. It’s difficult not to be both inspired and apprehensive at the same time as, with a cry of “Hoopla!” and the shot of a gun, you clip your feet into your pedals and settle into your saddle for what can only be described as the ride of your life.
Whilst much ado is made of what are considered to be the two major hills on the ride, Chapman’s Peak Drive and Suikerbossie, the first significant hill is actually Edinburgh Drive, which winds up through Cape Town’s beautiful Southern Suburbs. This is the first part of the ride where you see the supporters in full voice and you’ll be encouraged up the hill by cheer-leaders, clapping, cheering, pumping music and much more.
The route winds down towards Muizenberg where a hilly detour on Boyes Drive gives you a scenic view of Muizenberg beach and False Bay. You’ll pass through the historical Simon’s Town, home to South Africa’s navy and follow the False Bay coastline all the way down past the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
Crossing the Cape Peninsula at the half-way point in the race, the coastal road through Misty Cliffs is particularly beautiful. Here, you are almost at sea level, with waves crashing onto boulder-filled beaches and a wonderful cooling mist blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll pass through lovely sea-side villages on your way to the most scenic climb of them all – Chapman’s Peak Drive.
Chapman’s Peak guards the entrance to Hout Bay and is world-renowned for its sheer beauty. It is a challenging hill, which, on Argus day, will take your breath away as you round its first corner to see thousands of cyclists snaking their way up the mountain. At the very top of Chapman’s Peak Drive, a conveniently located water point allows you to catch your breath, re-fuel and take it the beautiful panorama of Hout Bay and the Sentinel peak.
What goes up must come down and your legs will enjoy the fast, steep downhill into the village of Hout Bay, before the assault of Suikerbossie, the last hill of the day. Once you have conquered Suikerbossie, you’re on your way home, passing the “see and be seen” suburbs of Camp’s Bay and Clifton, with the striking Twelve Apostles mountains on your right and the cooling Atlantic Ocean on your left.
At the end of the race, the cheering crowds at Greenpoint Stadium, host of many 2010 World Cup games, will make you feel like a hero as you join such luminaries as Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain and even Matt Damon as a successful Argus Tour finisher. Soak up the incredible feeling, it’s quite addictive and will be guaranteed to have you returning year after year for more!
See you on the 13th March at the start line!
Sound tempting? Watch scenes from the 2010 Argus Tour below:
Note: Anybody can do the Argus, on any type of bicycle. You don’t have to train like a demon for months prior to the race, most of the 35,000 strong entries do it purely for fun and the scenic value. Of course, the more you train, the easier the ride will be. Keep your fingers crossed for a clear blue day with no wind; if the Cape Doctor (the infamous South Western wind) starts to blow, you’re in for a challenging day!
All photos are courtesy of the official Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour website. To receive notification for the opening of entries for the 2012 Argus, subscribe to their newsletter on the official website.