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I feel a bit embarrassed today.

I have no idea what I was doing twenty years ago when Madiba was released from prison.

I do remember that I on 11 February 1990, I was 24, lived in Tableview and drove a 1976 Ford Escort called Sunshine. I don’t think I even knew who Nelson Mandela was. I grew up in an apolitical, irreligious family, and kept those blinkers on until well into my thirties. All I was interested in was boys, parties, getting to work sober and submitting my Unisa assignments on time.

So I looked it up in my diary: It was a Sunday. I had a rehearsal, and my folks came round for a braai, which was apparently very relaxing. Some oke called Ian invited me to Villa Revue.

Villa Revue! Now THAT I remember! It was a scaly club in Maitland which was open on Sunday evenings – unheard of in the old South Africa. Late Final played. Jislaaik, it rocked! Late Final still plays in the Beer Tent at the finish of the Argus Cycle Tour. Which is where, for the last fourteen years, I’ve stood and drunk beer for four hours after spending six hours on a small black saddle.

Oh dear. Just more proof that the more things change the more they stay the same.

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Mr Muffin was due to start his 20th Argus Cycle Tour one hour before me, so to while away the time before entering my starting chute I took refuge from the hurricane in a sleazy cafeteria. The type with greasy tables, cracked tiles and the sign that says ‘Credit only given to people over the age of 70 accompanied by both parents’.

The coffee was good though. As was the people-watching. A bepimpled teenager in cycling shorts and a pink tutu ordered and ate a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich with chips. I wondered if he would vomit on Hospital Bend or if he’d be able to hold it in until Wynberg Hill.

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This chap needed directions to his chute. Must be related to kachasu with that dead animal getup.

He obviously found his way as the good folk at Cape Town Daily Photo discovered (bottom left).

On my way to the start I noticed that Bartholomew Diaz was rather smugly enjoying the post-dawn plight of lycra-clad windswept humans clinging desperately to their steeds.

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That white thing in the background is Table Mountain.

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About 600 of us were in the PB group. We should have set off at 8:48, but because so many riders in earlier groups were blown off their bikes in the Hertzog Boulevard windtunnel, our start was delayed to 9.37. Of the 73 start groups, only 2 made it through the first 100m without anyone crashing. Charming.

I spent six hours in the saddle looking for Matt Damon and Francois Pienaar. As did loads of poppies on the side of the road, with badly made signs saying “MATT DAMON! FREE MASSAGE HERE!! NO JOKES!!!!!!!!

Finally, the finish.

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 And the beer tent. We call it Compost Corner. Because you just stand in one place and drink till you get vrot. Late Final, the best party band in Cape Town, was playing. Loudly. Thousands of shattered cyclists bopped, waved their beer bottles and sang along to Creedence, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits and Katie Perry. They even sang Happy Birthday to Mr Muffin.t-shirtthleaf1 

The Good: The people in Cape Town are amazing. Despite seriously grotty weather, the roads were lined with spectators, cheering every passing cyclist. They were as sunburnt, windblown and exhausted as we were. But they were still there at three in the afternoon, drinking beer, smiling and waving tatty banners. Thank you.

The Bad: I can’t believe how many cyclists were listening to iPods and talking on cellphones while cycling in very dangerous conditions. Do they live in this world?

The Ugly: I have a cold sore on my kisser. I feel like Oprah on Botox. I make Mick Jagger look like a thin-lipped viper.

Next year? I’ll be back. Wouldn’t miss it.

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January: Decided that being phoned on the beach on 3 January by clients whose VAT payments had bounced, sucked. So I gave up my business. Still a few clinging to the apron strings.

February: Played soccer with Flutts and clare. Still limping.

March: Did my 13th Argus Cycle Tour, marshalled, cycled and handed out medals to thousands of sweaty Two Oceans runners. All great experiences.

April: Built a set and did the lighting for a play.

May: Mr Muffin’s son returned from Italy on a Ducati. Much rejoicing.

June: Spent a day with mort. Still recovering from those chocolate bombs.

July: Discovered Diemersfontein chocolate pinotage and had a haircut.

August: Got the cooties, a granuloma and broke my arm. Dolce and LB came to see the play I directed. Nice quiet month.

September: Mrs Muffinex and her husband came to stay for two weeks. I like her. Really I do!

October: Semisweet and nossie came to Cape Town. More eating.

November: Had my 25th school reunion. Connected with my English teacher, and may be doing something theatrical with him next year.

December: Signed up to do Theory of Literature at Unisa next year, and UCT Summer School Creative Fiction Writing.

Conclusion: More laughter than tears. 8/10

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The road glistens from the night rain. Droplets splash up onto my legs as the wheels slice through the wet. Frogs call to each other across the valley, a concert of surround sound. Watery sunbeams filter through the leaves of the Sweet Chestnuts, dappling the road.

Sweat dribbles down my face. Wiping it away, I taste the salt on my lips.

Spring smells of rich soil and new growth rise from the earth, promising a time of fresh healing.

No cars on the road. I lean into the bends, taking the sweet line each time. Undiluted pleasure.

Life is good.

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The dulcet tones of Phil Liggett resound through the house. It’s the only time of year we have anything other than SABC. Tour de France time.

Yesterday was Stage Three. I confess to a bit of a gril when a pack of cyclists heads towards the camera. But every now and then the pleasure is ruined by close-ups. After last night’s screening, I got Hun to Solemnly Swear that he would never ride in yellow lycra. Ever.

It’s raining in France. You’d think that Mother Nature had achieved her annual rainfall target in Cape Town this past week. Obviously not.

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The numbered green blocks are approximately where the pics were taken:

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