Marsabit, Northern Kenya, March 7, 2011
According to most of the riders on the Cairo to Cape Town bicycle race and expedition, today was the toughest day, since its departure from Egypt over a month-and-a-half earlier. Five days ago the cycling group crossed the border from Ethiopia to Moyale in Northern Kenya.
“Moyale is the beginning of a very difficult road that stretches on for days,” says Cristiano Warneck, tour staff member and cyclist. “Somehow the word corrugation seems woefully inadequate to describe the state of this road. This is a stretch of sharp boulders and loose gravel that happens to be travelled on by vehicles, and is therefore called a road. Many of the places we travel on along this route are remote, but Northern Kenya has a harsh, merciless, feel to it, one wonders how people even live here.”
Today the cyclists completed 87km, which is not much at all compared to the around 206km per day that awaits them in Botswana. Yet, the harsh conditions took its toll on the riders.
Peter Lamond, an Australian who lives in South Africa, says “It was definitely the toughest day of riding since January 15th when we left Cairo. The corrugation can drive anyone mad. The loose gravel can easily throw a good rider on the ground after exhaustion. And the heat, the climbs, and the unexpected number one enemy of most cyclists, the headwind, make this one tough road to deal with.”
South African Andre Ormond arrived at the 67km lunch break on a borrowed bicycle; his own bike had packed up the day before. His borrowed cycling shoes were several sizes smaller than his feet. “I was at the lunch stop in the middle of the desert, waiting for them with energy bars, energy drinks, mangos, bananas and lots of water,” says Cristiano Warneck, “Andre looked exhausted, but somehow he still had a big smile on his face, and he made it clear that no other stage on this tour had been so challenging. Very aware of the 20 rough kilometers still ahead of him, Andre was very clear: ‘I just need this day to end’.
The tough roads play havoc with many bicycles. “Our bike mechanics have been very busy trying to fix every issue that arises with the 100 bikes which are on the tour.” says Warneck. “Wheels out of truing, broken transmissions, and bent hangers are just part of every day’s trials and tribulations. Even with all the care and time dedicated daily to the maintenance of the bicycles, at any time, in the rest camp, you will see someone changing tires and putting something different on. Warneck says that some of the riders are no longer sure which tires are the best to use on these tricky roads. “So sometimes the just pull their fat tires over their skinny tires,” Warneck explains. “Many of the more experienced riders says it doesn’t work, but those that are using it says that it’s been rolling smooth on the harsh roads, and they’ve had no flats ever since.”
“Tomorrow, the tour will take a rest day in Marsabit, before facing 5 more days of madness into Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The riders completed around 800km over the last 7 days, only half of it was paved. The ‘Meltdown Madness’ is the name given to the section from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, and it’s really a section for those people interested in testing and pushing their limits.
About Tour d’Afrique
Tour d’Afrique Ltd, (http://www.tourdafrique.com/) is named for its 2003 flagship cycling tour that annually traverses the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town (12,000 km in four months). Directly and indirectly Tour d’Afrique benefits third world countries by organizing and staging transcontinental bicycle tours and races lasting 10 days to four months, today traversing all or part of five continents and over 30 countries.
Astrid Stark / +27 084 400 4211 / firstname.lastname@example.org