Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge 2014
The 2014 race was subject to a new route. Waterfall Estate has been developed to the point where it is no longer possible to cater for the madness that is this 32 000 participant Momentum Cycle Challenge. The start venue is now River Sands on the other side of Steyn City. This means that the start of the race is now much more challenging, putting Summit Road and the heartbreak hill near to the beginning of the race with the N14 out and the infamous Cedar Road hill to be navigated at the end.
Did I forget to mention that we would be doing this route twice, dressed in blue and red spandex with yellow wigs? How silly of me!
For the past 5 years I have completed the 94.7 Cycle Challenge in aid of Children’s Haematology Oncology Clinics (CHOC) http://www.choc.org.za/about/who-we-are.html . The raising of funds for this charity is coordinated through an organisation called The Cows. This name is derived from the first suits (the only 8 that matched were cow suits) that the first 8 volunteers wore in 2009. Since the initial R288, 000 that those 8 raised the organisation, guided by the first cows as a committee of 8 that loosely coordinate the fundraising, the organisation has become the largest single fundraising initiative at the 94.7 Cycle Challenge event. The Cows have contributed in excess of R20m to CHOC. The money that is raised goes directly into projects that benefit children and families of the children that are suffering from cancer. Here are some of the things that have been done with the money (and for fun some of the costumes that have been dreamed up by Mr. Apocalypse Riccardi):
2010 – The Project: The upgrade and renovation of the pediatric oncology wards at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Cows: 270. Funds Raised: R3,6m.
2011 – The Project: Improving the wards at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital as well as promoting awareness of childhood cancer by sending CHOC Cow Awareness vans to outlying areas to educate medical staff on early warning symptoms. Cows: 350. Funds Raised: R3,7m.
2012 – The year of the Elvis Suits. The Projects: To build a house in the Eastern Cape to act as the home away from home for the children being treated for cancer and their families. Promoting awareness of childhood cancer by sending a CHOC Cow awareness vehicle with social work support to outlying areas to educate medical staff on the early warning signs of childhood cancer, Paediatric cancer research Cows: Over 400. Funds Raised: R4.2m.
2013 – The year of the Hells Angels Suits. The Projects: Support for the CHOC Bergvliet House where bone-marrow transplant patients are housed for up to 9 months because of the risk of infection. Support for the new CHOC House on East London, Social work support to the children affected by cancer in Johannesburg, East London and Bloemfontein Cows: 502. Funds Raised: R3,24m
2014 – The Projects: Accommodation – The CHOC Lodge, Durban; CHOC Houses Saxonwold, Diepkloof and Pretoria Psychosocial Support – Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Free State. Programme Coordinator – Western Cape and Namakwa Region. Programme vehicle – CHOC Kalahari Cows: over 500. Funds Raised: R4,2 m
So for a great cause I am happy to suffer through nearly 200km of riding. This usually takes 9-10 hours. This year was no exception as we set off just after dawn dressed as the collective “Thor”. The bunch was big and difficult to keep together. The change of route means that the hardest part of this race was the first 40km, to the top of Joe Slovo drive. None of us had ever done the route and there were a few that needed a gentle nudge up the hills in the first few kilometers. That said, the race is always completed in the greatest of spirits and with camaraderie that would make Clint Eastwood in his directors chair jealous. Gung Ho and green berets are mandatory. A spoonful of cement in your morning coffee is encouraged. Weakness is weeded out in the harshest terms.
We did not manage to break that magic 3-hour mark, arriving in 10 minutes after the hour. Importantly we did manage to get all of our number across the line in a bunch finish. After only the briefest of stops after lap 1, that has in the past seen us rubbing shoulders with Tour de France champions in the making and launched the careers of cycling pros and comedians alike, we were off for lap 2.
This is a party lap. Seeing spandex clad superhero’s ride up alongside ice cream bicycles and teams of riders when the main herd of Choc Cows are over halfway into the race has a major effect on morale (that and the Tequila) and in selected cases also on sobriety. This year I abandoned my post as the apocalypse cow sweeper and went in search of Del, who was riding her first cycle race after her defeat of Cancer the year before. She was riding with Dalene ,“Dad” Mulley and her crew. After finding them at the top of Jan Smuts I settled in for what I thought would be a relaxed cycle to the finish. I should have remembered that when in Apocalypse kit there is no such thing. At the bottom of the Republic Road hill I found an Ice Cream Bike with a tired looking crew.
I was still feeling strong, having recovered for 20 km, and pulled it up the hill and on into Randburg. The crew seemed to have gathered themselves and so we made good time through to Witkoppen and then up the big hill. We carried on, making good time, until Ceder Road. The downhill is far more dangerous than the uphill and I rode alongside until the juggernaut slowed and then hitched it up to my seat post and began peddling for dear life. I cannot confess to being an expert on Montessori schools but the one near the top of that climb has certainly heard its share of colorful language.
It is just about at this point that two energetic mountain bikers grabbed the handles of the ice cream bike and pushed it at warp speed up the rest of the hill and then on to the finish. Unfortunately for my read derailleur the gravitational effect of a 60 kg ice cream bike plus two fresh sets of legs proved too much for it and I was forced to remove it and reduce my bicycle to a single speed. I was lured, by this incident, into believing that the excitement for the day was over. I was wrong. I rode into Steyn City with Dalene and pushed her gently up one or two of the final climbs. I was wholly unprepared for the downhill through the main gates that sweeps around a sizeable traffic circle.
I heard her say, “I don’t have breaks”. My ears registered this, but I had not yet engaged my brain to contemplate the ramifications. Dalene hit the traffic circle at about 30km/h. For a moment, as she lifted off and pirouetted gracefully through the air, time stood still. Then it sped up, all at once and Dalene hit the ground. Fortunately the only damage was that sustained by her tyres, that both burst cheekily as she navigated them into the concrete curb. They were speedily repaired by the expert hands that required any distraction, certainly from thinking about what might have been had one or two of the trees on the circle been more mature or positioned mere degrees either side of her crash landing.
The day ended, late, in the Cows hospitality area drinking very cold beer nursing very warm bodies. It is however, hands down, the best ride of the year.