The EFI Club – One Intrepid Member’s Story
Achieving EFI – riding Every Fucking Inch of the Tour d’Afrique – is a remarkable accomplishment. It requires a unique combination of physical mental and emotional strength, the luck and guts to avoid or overcome serious illness or a painful crash, and a huge dose of determination. In the first 9 years of the TdA a total of 103 incredibly tough characters have been awarded EFI medals, including 85 men and 18 women from 14 different countries.
To date the oldest EFI Club Members as of the day they arrived in Cape Town are: Men – James Hilsinger 66 yrs 338 days in 2005; Women – Joan Louwrens 54 yrs 202 days in 2006. The youngest are: Men – Sunil Shah 22 yrs 113 days in 2010; Women – Alice Rawlinson 23 yrs 324 days in 2007.
The 2006 EFI Club
Canadian Lloyd Strong, who was EFI on the 2009 TdA, is perhaps the slowest rider ever to join the club. But like Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, EFI is not about speed, rather it’s all about perseverance. Here are some of Lloyd’s tales:
Lloyd after arriving at the Gondar hotel
“The big climbing day into Gondar took me almost 12 hours and I had really a tough time getting in but I did it. I almost wasn't allowed to finish the day because I was about 30 km out when I met Miles. As you know TdA has a policy about riding in the dark and with dusk coming up and me being the last on the road he offered me a ride up to the camp/hotel. We agreed that if I didn't hit the t junction about 20 kms away by the cut off time, I wouldn't complain. I was given a fair chance, it was slightly downhill so I pushed it hard and let the bike fly. When we met at the T junction he waved me on and said that they would wait on the far side of each of the roundabouts to make sure that I got in. Eventually when I got to town, I was really thirsty and wanted a coke. Miles said to keep on riding, that I was really close, he would get me one. He returned with a big smile and with the coldest coke that I've ever had, even to this day! Shortly after drinking the coke, it got dark. I figured that he was going to pull me off the road, not a chance. He pointed to the switchback road going up to the hotel, which was one hell of a climb to one hell of welcome from all the TDA riders and staff. As a side note there was an entry in the TdA web blog….Lloyd Strong EFI forever…..to which folks back home wondered what that meant and called the office to see if I had died and what had happened. Unfortunately I could not email word back home that I was alive and well for a few days.”
“The shot of me with Table Mountain in the background at the end of the ride is also a favorite. To have that photo taken… it took 4 bicycles – the frame on my Da Vinci broke in Ethiopia on Friday the 13th, I bought a sectional rider’s bike to replace it, plus I borrowed 2 when mine broke down. It also took 2 months worth of worm medicine and creams (I got nailed by the sand worm larvae in the centre of my back that took forever to die), tons of flats…my last good tube had 14 patches, and many tough days filled with lots of good memories! I may have had the worst of luck or the best of luck because I remember just about every day through those trials and memories. One day I rode 50 kms into camp with a zip tie and t shirt holding my saddle in place. And I remember other riders by the side of the road or at lunch having their difficulties and how hard they
worked to get to that point. I also remember all the encouragement the other riders gave me. When I look at that photo, it all comes back.”
“This adventure really delivered a lot more than I paid for, and not many days go by that I don't smile in regards to those 4 short months. When I'm asked a question about my TdA, there is never a short answer, but a long intertwined explanation of my epic adventure. I suspect that it will be that way till I complete the Silk Route or another of your tours, which unfortunately has to wait till next year!”