Cape Rouleur: My ultimate challenge

Cycling Weekly editor Robert Garbutt battling on at the brilliant Cape Rouleur in South Africa

There are a lot of events claiming to be the ultimate cycling challenge, but take it from me, the Cape Rouleur in South Africa is up there with the very best.

Now in its third year, this 600-kilometre international five-day event is part race, part sportive, with all the razzmatazz of a major league bike event. It’s organised by HotChillee, the people behind the London to Paris ride and Alpine Challenge, who aim to give ordinary riders a glimpse of the pro rider experience.

With police controlling the traffic, stopping cars at all junctions, motorcycle outriders, lead and service cars, and even a helicopter to film the event, HotChillee certainly aims to impress. That’s why it has attracted its biggest and most international field for this, the third edition. Brits accounted for the biggest entry, with 69 of the 150 entrants, surprisingly 10 more than South Africa.

Riders were split into three groups depending on ability, so no prizes for guessing who I was riding with, especially after I finished eighth from last in the prologue time trial which was used for the seeding. That certainly wasn’t a very pleasant experience — torrential rain, flooded roads and freezing cold, this was exactly like our winter, not summer in the southern hemisphere.

Fortunately, the sun returned for Monday’s 130-kilometre first road stage but a block headwind for last third of the ride made it a very long and hard day.

Two stages down, three to go…

Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly