Off we go!
Today was our first day on the race and boy was it eventful… and an eye opener as to what this tour has in store for us. We began bright and early and formed a convoy outside the hotel. Destination: The Great Pyramids of Giza. Replete with a bona fide police escort our group navigated street and highway, through the labyrinth that is Giza, passing a myriad of exotic animals, shops and people -all of whom were friendly, if not a great deal intrigued by the bevy of people on an eclectic collection of bikes sporting some of the most tightly fitting and gregariously coloured jerseys that this country has ever seen. Your writer was tasked with pulling up to some of the intersections early, hopping off his bike and stopping the traffic our police escort forgot to mop up. Not a job for the faint of heart.
Upon arriving at the pyramids we made our way up a rather steep hill to a reception put on by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism. A few speeches, several cups of tea and exactly 1,927 pictures later we embarked. Still in convoy, we made our way through the bustling streets and onto the equally busy and infinitely more exhaust laden highway for a 30km express ride out of the city. Despite a multitude of white knuckles everyone made it safely off that vehicular OK Coral the Egyptians call a road and onto the smaller highway that would take us to our camp. Our respite from the dust and exhaust was replaced by a far greater foe: Headwinds. Valiantly battling through what felt like gale force winds, up and down hills we all began to doubt the two aspects about riding in Egypt that our Tour Directors had told us. Namely that is flat and to expect sweet, sweet tailwinds.
However therein lays the prime certainty of cycling, that the only certainty is uncertainty. At the halfway point we were met with a great spread of energy drink, oranges, pita bread, apricot jam, peanut butter and a meat that almost every Canadian knows as Donkey Dank. A number or riders, ground down by the relentless wind, beating Egyptian sun and long climbs decided to hop onto one of our support vehicles.
Now I am writing from our night’s camp. We on what looks to be an old lake bed, very flat and very long. There are hills rising out of the evening mist and the sun has just tucked itself behind them giving everyone in camp a spectacular view. The full moon has risen behind me in the dark, dusky blue sky and it compels me to reflect on an event that happened to me today. Towards the end of the morning session I was in a bad way, it felt that I had ridden half way to Capetown and I was fading fast. A killing back, aching lungs and fully depleted water supply. It was then that a rider on the tour named Lloyd came up and passed me. I stopped to stretch my back and rest my legs and lungs feeling as miserable as I have felt since killer rugby fitness practices at my university. He noticed this in his rear view mirror, stopped and turned around asking if I was okay. I explained my situation and instead of offering sympathy and maybe a Tylenol from his med pack he offered to slow down to a snails pace, ride directly in front of me and block all the wind that was standing between me and the salvation that was the lunch stop. For the next half an hour he crawled along at my pace, offering words of encouragement and soothing my bruised ego. He towed me to the truck in every respect short of lashing a rope from his bike to mine. It people like this that make the tour enjoyable, people that will sacrifice themselves to make sure everyone makes it across the line whether the a leaping from their bikes after a hard sprint or limping in at little more than walking pace.