The Final Count Down
Piles of cardboard bikebox carnage litter the halls of our hotel. Following the faint wafts of bike grease and a sudden spike in spandex, it doesn't take long to locate the crop of Tour d'Afrique 2010 cyclists that have arrived in Cairo.
Months of anticipation and planning are finally coming to fruition. Riders and staff representing 14 countries are enjoying their last few days of regular showering and modern plumbing, swapping saddle sore tips and getting acquainted with members of the mobile tent village they'll call home for the next four months.
With Saturday's official tour start just over 24 hours away, cyclists got the chance to ride to the Sukkara pyramids this morning for a little warmup before the big day, negotiating their way through the frenzied Cairo traffic with style and ease (stease).
Today's ride was a light appetizer to the smorgasbord of a cycling feast this group is about to embark on but already the friendliness of the people of Cairo has made an impression. You can't help but feel happy when a young boy perched atop a donkey shouts, “I love you!” from a muddy river bank as we pedal by. Even at its most chaotic, our pack was met with smiles as children held out their hands for high fives as we squeezed and coughed our way through clouds of dust and trucks and people.
Buoyed by the endorphins that only cycling can provide, our group enjoyed a brief glimpse of ancient Egypt before heading back for our first rider meeting of the tour. The coffee was instant but the donuts were plentiful, which made for a pleasant afternoon.
Tomorrow the trucks will be packed, their insides stuffed like chipmunk cheeks and hundreds of spare tires hoisted onto the roofs. What doesn't fit will get left behind. More than one over-packer will have a restless sleep tonight.