The techno beat was live. A deep thump with the percussion and electronic melody that could only be European... probably of German origin. Maybe Austrian.
Slowly it crept into my dream world enough that my dream world faded, and I realized where I was... at the Marlborough Mansions, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Mansions are a Gothic white, stone building from the early 1900s, and have become the adopted home of most of the Cape Epic's professional teams. They're practical, if not a bit spartan.
The epic techno beat, while not too bad, was exactly German, and was being blasted by the Ergon team mechanics. However rude I thought they were at first was quickly forgiven when a quick check of the clock revealed I'd slept until 11:45 am! And let me tell you... that sleep was sweet.
Flash back to 24 hours earlier... my erstwhile partner Justin Lindine, of Redline Bicycles, and I had just clipped into our bikes at the start line of what everyone was calling "South Africa's second World Cup" - a true Wednesday world championship line up organized by Christoph Sauser to benefit his Songo.info charity.
A 45-minute short track-style race really turned out to be an urban assault hill climb contest. It brought out a who's who of world class cross country powerhouses. In these races, you give all you have until it's gone, then... you beg to be lapped.
Justin and I were less than 12 hours off the plane after our 30+ hour travel journey, so simply being on the start line was a bit surreal. From snow flurries to sunscreen, here we were taking this race as if it really were just a local afternoon Boulder short track session, the main difference being that I was lined up on the current cross country world champion's wheel. The race went about as expected: fun, until it wasn't.
Justin flew the flag a bit better, staying in the race until the last lap, with Sauser lapping the field damn well into almost the top 10 finishing positions.
Normally after efforts like these, racers are in a rough spot - tired, dusty, energy spent and eyes fixed in a thousand-yard stare... but not here. Most riders were smiling and high-fiving each other for their efforts and the crowds lingering to talk to the riders, supporting them for supporting the efforts to bring racing and awareness to their community. It was Human Rights Day, and here we were racing our bikes in the communities of Tenantville and Plankenbrug, thanks to the hard work of Sauser and Songo.info group.
Lindine and I are here at the Cape Epic to challenge ourselves, but also to try to make a difference in our own little way - we'll be racing under the banner of World Bicycle Relief, with custom commemorative kits designed by Sixteenfifty and Mt Borah to celebrate the effort... and hopefully make us look cool even if we're not so fast. The kits are for sale (new ones, not our used ones), with proceeds going to the WBR, if you're interested.
South Africa is a sports crazed community, a country that loves competition and challenge. It's easy in the US to lose perspective on simply being a part of the show, pushing yourself to achieve both your own and your partner's standards, and not have it be about a paper result. The Cape Epic is a race we know we'll never win, and while it's debatable if we'll have an impact on the race, I know, without a doubt, this race will have an enduring impact on me.
You can learn more and donate here to World Bicycle Relief.
Helmet cam video footage below provided by Jason Sager.