by Wimpie van der Merwe
I am not a sissy and I do have the right clothes for extreme weather, but the June Audax ride I count as one of the coldest rides I had on a bike. Until sunrise we experienced temperatures close to freezing point. At one point I thought the only solution for my freezing fingers and toes was amputation. I just did not know if they were on the handlebars or somewhere in the void. There was just no feeling. When I arrived home I soaked myself in a steaming hot, scalding bath. Within minutes I had to drain water to fill up again with hot water. My body slurped up the heat.
Nine riders started and finished the ride to Tulbagh and back. The route took us over Du Toitskloof and back over Bainskloof pass. The Boland had rain the days before, which made the area wet and cold and the mountain streams brimming with flood water. We were blessed with fair weather and unlike winter predictions, had a Southeaster to contend with on the way back.
The groups for faster and full value riders separated in Paarl as we approached Du Toitskloof pass, with the faster group consisting of Marius Carstens, Chris van Zyl and myself. We had sunrise as we crested the pass, giving us a panoramic view of Paarl and the Boland.
On our way to the first control in Rawsonville it seemed we became part of the biker group on their way to Goudini as we were leapfrogging them. Rawsonville’s refreshments, consisting of anything that was warm, got us going through the Slanghoek valley with a wind in the back. Since there was no typical winter weather it became a crisp autumn day, making up for all the discomfort of the freezing cold an hour or two ago.
Chris van Zyl just returned from a 2,200 km Audax in Italy and we had ample time to hear his experiences. His legs were not yet fully recovered and I think both Marius and I were grateful for that! He was the only one with mechanicals, the only flat tyre for the day. Whilst changing tubes we saw Marius’ back tyre was under serious threat if there was a mosquito attack. He was riding on cotton, super slick tyres…
Wolseley produced a beautiful autumn countryside of multi-coloured vineyards as we entered the main road. The British block house, built to protect the bridge and railway line, stood there as silent monument, a reminder of a war fought more than a 100 years ago.
By the time we reached Tulbagh we were ravenous and after finishing local restaurant supplies they wanted to close down for the week because they reached their turnover target through us. We had to inform them of the rest of the group that was on its way and that if they stayed open longer they will reach the next month’s turnover target too! As we left, the full value group pulled in at the restaurant.
The fun started as we left Tulbagh. The chilly Southeaster picked up in ferocity and we had to ride against it up to the finish. Even going up Bainskloof there was no respite. At least the pass had active fountains, supplying us with water on the go. The waterfalls high up in the mountains were cascading, something you don’t see too frequently.
In the light that Audax rules do not prohibit you from riding longer distances than the prescribed route, we decided to go the longer route through Paarl to Klapmuts so we had more protection from the wind by the town’s structures and trees, rather than being caught in the open on the Windmeul road. Though we road further we arrived there faster. Chris and Marius had to continue on to Vrede, whilst I went home, another 40 km, having ridden to the start by bike. It was a ride from dark to dark, possibly the first 200 Audax where we started with lights and finished with it too.