The most beautiful bike race in the world circles the Cape Peninsula, starting and finishing in the shadow of Table Mountain, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
After a ‘Hoopla’, and the crack of the starter’s pistol, the new start sees riders head past the Cape Town Castle for the first time in 35 years, before hitting the first challenge of the day – Nelson Mandela Boulevard – a little later than before. A swift swoop through Hospital Bend, before spinning past UCT and Newlands Forest, and suddenly you will be on Edinburgh Drive. Also called Wynberg Hill, this steep ramp reminds you why you needed to train, before the fast 25-odd kilometres to Simonstown restores the faith, a little.
The long drag up to Smitswinkel and the entrance to the Cape Point Nature Reserve almost brings you to the halfway point and, if the South Easter is pumping, some welcome relief from the niggly headwinds. The traverse through Scarborough and Misty Cliffs is restorative, after your guaranteed too-fast start, with a cool breeze and the best view of the ocean all day. Then it all gets hard again, with the flat run back to Fishhoek straight into the South Easter softening the legs for the Chapman’s Peak/Suikerbossie double-feature to come. Chapman’s Peak is a two-part trial; Little Chappies is short and steep, but over quickly and buoyed by the spectator support at its foot. The main climb is longer, but flatter, and offers distractions aplenty (force yourself to look) as you ride one of the world’s most beautiful roads. After a speedy descent into Hout Bay, it is time to face the demons of Suikerbossie.
A kilometre-and-a-half of purgatory – it is the same for everyone, dig in and use the spectators for inspiration and distraction – will be over sooner than you think, and then it is fifteen glorious downhill and flat kilometres to the finish, through Bakoven, Camp’s Bay (the little kick up to the old finish in Maiden’s Cove will wake your legs up), Clifton and Sea Point.