UPDATED January 10, 2023

BY Henry Gold

IN Founder's Thoughts


UPDATED January 10, 2023

BY Henry Gold

IN Founder's Thoughts


Dare To Be Different


I am free and that is why I am lost.” – Franz Kafka

“My slogan is dare to be different,” said the female voice on the BBC radio show. I was in the basement of my home, it was the holiday season, and I was doing my best to stretch my abused body. Instantly, the voice on the radio had my full attention. After all, for anyone who has scrolled through the TDA website, one of our ‘calls to action’ is – Dare to be different!

The voice belonged to Anna Kiesonhofer, a mathematician by profession, and the surprise winner of the 147 km road cycling event during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.  “Alone against the odds the non-pro Austrian cyclist who beat the best, without the support of a single teammate,” began the podcast. She was considered a novice, with no coach nor support team and when the 30-year-old lined up at the start, not one of the experienced competitors and talking heads paid any attention to her.

On the ferry crossing Lake Nasser, 2003

The comments brought up memories. It was just about 20 years ago, January 18th, 2003 to be exact, that I and 32 other cyclists lined up in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza and dared to be different. It was the first day of a bicycle journey that took us across the African continent – from Cairo to Cape Town in 120 days.

Most people that heard about our plans were more than sceptical. Friends and relatives, when not worried about us, were silently praying for our wellbeing. But we dared. And in end, although we didn’t win an Olympic medal, we achieved more. Each one of us had the unforgettable journey of a lifetime. We overcame our fears and our limitations, we learned so much, we made friends that have lasted a lifetime and, most important of all, we became better human beings.

At the finish line in Cape Town in 2003

The journey didn’t end there. Explore Magazine published my story of the first Tour d’Afrique and noted that, “To the Canadian organizer of the first Tour d’Afrique, cycling 11,000 kilometres from Cairo to Cape Town seemed like a good idea at the time. And after the lava fields, the bandit territory, the stone-throwing kids and the tire-swallowing sand, it seemed like an even better idea.

The Tour d’Afrique has become an annual event, allowing hundreds of other ordinary folks to experience what we did on the first ride across Africa. Cycling across other continents soon followed, each route bringing joy and fulfillment to the participants, providing the opportunity for them to experience all the world has to offer. This ‘good idea’ has grown so much that in 2022 we ran ten amazing tours on six continents. Every time I meet someone who asks me if I go on all these tours, I smile and say, “I would if I could only clone myself.” The growth continues. In 2023, we are planning to run another 11 fabulous tours that will enable hundreds more cyclists ‘to dare to be different’ and follow the call of their hearts.

I started this blog with a quote from Franz Kafka, the author of such 20th century masterpieces as The Metamorphosis and The Trial. He was born and lived in Prague but wrote his masterpieces in German. A Bohemian Jew, he was the ultimate outsider. A lifelong outsider myself, who grew up in what was then Czechoslovakia, in my youth I had a fascination with Franz Kafka. It was reading about him that I discovered that before he started writing, he was contemplating publishing travel books – Lonely Planet guides before Lonely Planets even existed! Kafka thought of calling them Dare to Be Different. I would think that the literary world is glad that he decided not to write the travel books but Kafka certainly dared to be different, as did Anna Kiesonhofer, and as do the TDA community of riders.

On her personal webpage Anna Kiesonhofer responded to the question – Was it a childhood dream of yours to participate at the Olympic Games? Her answer was, “I focused on smaller goals and took it step-by-step, from local races to national and international races… Until finally the director of the Austrian women’s national team approached me in 2019 and mentioned that the next Olympic road race had a course profile that might suit me and asked if perhaps that might interest me…

The rest is history. You could say that it all started by daring to be different.

3 Comments for "Dare To Be Different"

So beautifully written and inspiring. Thank you Henry!

I love reading every blog about le Tour d’Afrique. Henry, you are such a good writer.

    Thanks. Actually writing for me is really not easy, but I do (sometimes) enjoy once it is done. And I think in general, the team at TDA enjoys writing about what we do and where we go.

Leave a Comment for "Dare To Be Different"

Your Email address will not published. Required fields are marked