I am thankful The Cows' Stampede and the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge come only once a year. There's enough energy packed into the three month build up that some people would be grateful to experience in a lifetime. The race has everything: trepidation, excitement, fashion, drama, love, tension, pain, deep fatigue, failure, elation, high stakes. And that is just the first loop of the 94.7 kilometre race.
Below is a picture of the first dress rehearsal of the Apocalypse Cows which occurred 72 hours before race start. Little time to get used to the bell bottoms not getting caught in the bike blades. On the right are the designers of the Elvis Cow outfit. Despite the casual appearance, the atmosphere was thick with tension as to whether 34 riders, including three ladies in the red jumpsuits, could make the first loop in under 3 hours. One of the riders stood to double her money if she went sub-3. Her fastest ever 94.7 time had been 3h12.
Below is the wild cat, Marc Bainbridge. You might recall him from my previous post as the guy in the red Speedo with the word "CHOC" shaved into his chest and cow patches on his stomach. The first time I ever met him, we were dressed in woolly cow suits doing a Halloween spinnathon. He blew up within the first 10 minutes and nearly passed out. Armed with his dirty tash and chops, he put his reputation on the line that he would go sub-3.
I always forget how fast and hard the race starts. This year saw plenty of shouting and instructions to make sure the team stayed together at the start. For the first time ever, the entire group stayed together on the first highway section of the ride. I was over the moon with that as, in previous years, riders had detonated in - I kid you not - the first 5 minutes of the ride.
A group of riders is a flock of steel humming birds. The whir of the blades, the intense focus and the wheel in front of you are the only things that trouble your mind. The red and white of the suits that surround you are comforting in their presence and fill you with awe and adrenaline. A word from a fellow rider telling you to relax your breathing or to close the gap nurture the belief that you can make it. There is little that matches and motivates like the camaraderie of a close knit team.
If you ever get the chance, ride in a cycling team. Afterwards, cycling and your self imposed ceiling of limitations will never be the same again.
Chris Froome. Chris was second overall in the 2012 Tour De France, the best ever by a South African raised rider. Here he was gracious in accepting defeat at the hand of the Apocalypse Cows who beat his team by about 2 minutes.
The Cows raised R3.1 million to be used for a a CHOC House in the Eastern Cape, a CHOC Cow Awareness vehicle and supporting medical staff, and paediatric cancer research. Normally the CHOC house project takes about 18-24 months to reach completion so there is still much work to be done.
The 2012 stampede was memorable in that we met a whole batch of new friends, reinvented what we thought we could achieve surpassing our own expectations, injected a bit of Cow-love into the streets of Johannesburg and had a blast in the process. And no-one crashed an ice cream bike. That is a first.
A little less conversation, a little more action please,