While the cold has not lifted from the pave of Paris-Roubaix and the peloton parading down the California coast has now been pushed to May, the cycling season does officially start this month. I don't mean that cake-walk sprinters race "downunder", I'm talk'n about a real race,... MANly cycling. A true race of truth. A race that, to paraphrase pro cyclist Kenny van Hummel, I'd eat my handlebars to finish. A race that harkens back to the days when Henri Degrange ruled the roads of France and they were mostly dirt and racers spread cocaine cream on their shaved legs to ward off the cold. Yes, this month riders pull out from the start of the 8th edition of the "Tour d'Afrique".
Easily the biggest cycling race on the planet just pedaled off from the start line in the shadows of the Great Pyramids. This year from the 16th January through 15th May, a total of 49 true 'convicts of the road" will depart from Cairo hoping to compete and complete the entire distance across wilds of the African continent. Another 19 will "weeny out" and only do sections of the race. Of course only those that do the complete tour are considered for the final classification.
So that got me thinking, Is there a Lanterne Rouge? Or do stragglers get pick off by the broom wagon brothers (photo above)? Just the prospect certainly inspires you to pound the pasta, gulp and extra GU and avoid bonking.
The total distance is 11,884 km, spread out over 120 days and 96 stages, dwarfing even the insanity of the original Grand Boucle which was a mere six stages over three weeks and a pedestrian 2,428 km. (Interestingly 60 riders took to that first start in France, about the same as participate each year in ToA.)
The ToA features 96 cycling "stages", averaging 123 km (77 miles) each, broken up by 22 rest days and 2 days of ferry boat travel for a total of 120 days in traversing Africa from north to south. Stages range from 80 km on rough terrain to more than 180 km on the best paved roads. All this before finally pedaling into the finish in Cape Town, South Africa mid-May.
The sections are:
- Pharaoh's Delight : from Cairo to Khartoum : 16 JAN TILL 04 FEB
- The Gorge : Khartoum to Addis Abeba : FEB 6 TILL 20
- Meltdown Madness : Addis Abeba to Nairobi : FEB 22 TILL MARCH 12
- Masai Steppe : Nairobi to Iringa : MAR 14 TILL 25TH
- Malawi Gin : Iringa to Lilongwe : MAR 27 TILL 05 APR
- Zambezi Zone : Lilongwe to Victoria Falls : APR 7 TILL 15TH
- Elephant Highway : Victoria Falls to Windhoek : APR 18 TILL 28
- Diamond Coast : Windhoek to Cape Town : APR 30 TILL MAY 15
You can follow this mad cap adventure on the ToA blog and learn more at Tour d'Afrique