February 1/06 7:03 am - Tour d'Afrique Update
Posted by Editor on 02/1/06
Tour d'Afrique Update
Tour d'Afrique, the annual 12 000-kilometer bicycle race/expedition from Cairo to Cape Town, billed as the most gruelling bicycle race on earth, is in it's second week.
Cyclists are adjusting mentally and physically to the many new aspects that this cycling epic brings; new sleeping patterns, sleeping on the ground, different food and water, anti-malaria drugs, the daily strain of the effort required to cover the distance each day, sun stroke, dehydration, desert winds, dust, fluctuations in temperature from 10 to 37 degrees and ... saddle sores a plenty! But the rewards are priceless.
Travelling through 10 African countries in all, over 40 intrepid cyclists have already clocked up 1,400 km in 13 cycling days through Egypt and the Sudan and are taking a well earned rest day along the Nile River on the border of the Nubian and Sahara Deserts in the bustling, friendly town of Dongola.
The paved roads through Egypt in the first week gave the cyclists the opportunity to settle into the nomadic lifestyle that will characterise their lives for the next four months and get some serious training in for the challenges of the 'roads' of Sudan.
Canadian Sam Bail, the youngest cyclist on the Tour at 19, says of week two in the Sudan 'You ride the washboard hating it and then you hit the sand with relief. After struggling through the sand for a few kilometres you find yourself wishing you were riding the washboard again!'
A gruelling 25 kilometre desert crossing on day 13 ended in a ferry crossing across the Nile into the Sahara desert with the highlight of the day being the ride into Dongola. 'On hitting the paved road 10 km's before Dongola - I thought I was hallucinating! ' said Michael Heitz who is fast finding his 'sand legs'.
The largest, yet least visited country in Africa, Sudan is home to over 37 million people made up of more than 550 ethnic groups. In spite of their political problems and differences, hospitality and generosity is key amongst the Sudanese people. The cyclists are constantly invited into the simple, yet beautiful mud and stone homes for chai, coffee or a meal.
While the leisure riders soak up the culture in the villages, take photos and time to meet the people along the way, the competition amongst the racers is foreshadowing an incredible cycling event for this year.
The South African riders are at the fore in both the male and female sections, with George Oertel and Joan Louwrens in first positions, and Pieter van Rooyen and Phillipa Le Roux in second positions.
12 days - 1,336 kms
George Oertel - South African - 43:41:12
Pieter Van Rooyen - South African - 44:40:12
Matthew Caretti - American - 44:58:13
Joan Louwrens - South African - 50:36
Phillipa Le Roux - South African - 58:11
Christa Meier - Swiss - 59:34
From Dongola, the Tour will follow the Nile for a day and half, crossing into the Sahara desert before entering the city of Khartoum at the confluence of the Blue and the White Nile rivers. The first time trial of the Tour will take place 30 km's in the desert before arriving in Khartoum.
The Tour takes approximately 120 days to cross the African continent, of which 95 are cycling days. The cyclists cover an average distance of 125 km (75 miles) each day with a rest day every 5-6 days.
To follow the race or for more information, visit www.tourdafrique.com.