Interview with Allan Benn
Erik Dobrovolsky: Where are you from?
Allan Benn: I am originally from Cape Town in South Africa, but I’ve spent the last 10 years in the UK so going back to Cape Town is a bit of a homecoming trip for me.
ED: How did you first hear about the Tour d’Afrique
AB: About 6 years ago at the London Triathlon I was in the line for registration and I was just chatting to a Canadian fellow who had just done, or was just about to do this same trip, and immediately then I thought “this is great, I want to do something like this…one day.” It just happens that now’s the time to do it, the day has come.
ED: Has the tour differed from your expectation?
AB: Yeah, immensely. Mainly in that I really had no idea what to expect. I just don’t think I could have appreciated how tough it would be, how long the days would be, the diversity of terrain that it would be over and all the other challenges besides cycling. Challenges like staying healthy, drinking and eating enough along the trip, putting the tent up, taking it down every day, technical bike maintenance and the countries that we’ve been through so far are all completely new to me. I only know South Africa and Namibia so everything really is new and beyond my expectations.
ED: How are you finding the race?
AB: The race is great fun, no doubt about that. Very, very tough though. I didn’t actually plan to race in the beginning, but I thought, “let’s join and see how it goes”. As it turns out it’s gone very well and half way through it I find myself in the lead and very enthusiastic about continuing the race now.
ED: How did you prepare for the tour?
AB: Didn’t prepare much in the way of cycle training; I’ve got a good base fitness from Taekwondo and competitive running. Most of the preparation really was in selecting and getting the bike right.
ED: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the tour?
AB: Ah yes, the off-road sections. I’m not on a mountain bike, I’ve got no suspension and I really have been hammered. It’s like taking a beating everyday on the corrugations, the rocks, the sand and it’s actually been a huge learning curve just to try and learn how to ride off-road. It’s completely new to me.
ED: What is your favorite aspect of the tour?
AB: I think just cycling along, being so excited to be in Africa spending four months just enjoying the sights, the smells, the feelings and just being part of Africa. Everyday you get to chat to locals just about life, about their kids, my son, how our lives are similar, how our lives are different. It’s really a nice way of getting close and intimate to the places you are traveling though.
ED: What has been your favorite country so far and why?
AB: Um… Malawi and Tanzania stand out. Very friendly people, very hospitable. Um, I think if I had to pick one it would have to be Malawi because of the lake. Chattimba Beach for me has been the best place ever. Beach volleyball, a bar and restaurant on the beach, swimming, uh… that’s it, that’s the place to be.
ED: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AB: The food, I eat huge amounts. I eat a huge bowl of porridge in the morning, I gorge myself with sandwiches at lunchtime, and then again having consumed seconds or even possibly thirds at dinner I wobble back to my tent and collapse on my thermarest to sleep. I’m just amazed that it’s possible to eat this amount yet I’m actually losing weight throughout the tour… there’s just so much cycling to do.
Another thing I’ve really liked is the just the group of people, it’s been so positive, there’s been so much encouragement, there’s been so much camaraderie… so much support from everybody, it really is a wonderful group of people here.