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This 2019 trip is under construction. All the information, text and photos will be added gradually.
Tour de Boland and Cape Town Cycle Tour
801 km / 6800 EG
Starting from the pulsating metropolis of Cape Town we set out on a six-stage adventure through the Cape region, in the course of which we shall experience South Africa's most wonderful side. We ride through the wine-growing area north of Cape Town, over the fertile Worcester Plain to Montegu, famous for its dried fruits. On the longest stage we reach the northernmost point of the tour, riding deep into the arid Karoo region, and we pass the Aquila Nature Reserve, a safari park where the<italic>Big Five</italic>can be marvelled at. En route, on Stage Five, we ride the two most famous passes in the Cape region, the Franschhoek Pass and the Bainskloof Pass. Stage Six is the lap of honour to Stellenbosch. After that comes the transfer to Cape Town, where we have scheduled a free day before, on 11th March, we join the biggest cycling race in the world - the Cape Town Cycle Tour, better known as the Cape Argus Bike Race. Epic Climbs’ most adventurous holiday in 2018!
2 passes cycled
Chapman's Peak Drive
, Franschhoek Pass
We leave Cape Town and its lively night and beach life behind, and head directly north, always along the coast. Once we are outside the city, Table Mountain diminishes in size behind us and the mountains ahead begin to loom larger. We have no major climbs to do today. Which is no bad thing, as we shall probably still be a little stiff from the long flight. Moreover, it's early in the season and we can enjoy the pleasant temperatures and the warming sun while we slowly get in a rhythm, settle down in the group, and get used to riding on the left. Our stage destination of Franschhoek, surrounded by mountains and in a bowl, would not look out of place in the Alps. On the horizon we can already spot the Franschhoek Pass, which we will have to tame first thing tomorrow.
Today's agenda has us tackling the toughest climb in the Cape region, the Franschhoek Pass, early in the morning. The river valley ends right here at our departure point, Franschhoek, and this is where the road to the pass begins, with just one bend in 7 kms as we climb 450 metres. The views of the mighty mountains around Franschhoek get better and better, and remind us of the Dolomites. On the other side, the descent is fast, but not quite so steep. We follow a narrow river gorge down to the dammed Sonderend River and go on to the small town of Villiersdorp. The next 50 kms to Worcester are mostly flat along the Breerevier Valley. The stunted undergrowth on both sides of the road offer no shade and the sun shines mercilessly down on us from the north. A low pass, hardly noticeable in this direction, makes a bit of a change here in the middle of nowhere. Worcester, then, is situated in an extremely fertile valley, the Breede Valley, which extends around Worcester and Goudini to become a broad plateau. It is encircled by high mountains and intensively cultivated for fruit - a delightful valley, particularly if we see the sun rise over it in the early morning.
Today we are presented with a different type of challenge: 40 kms straight as an arrow on the R60 through the endless expanse of Africa. The 33 kms leading to the junction with the R60 are very enjoyable, particularly because we will undoubtedly be leaving before sun-up again, to avoid most of the midday heat. The ride over the kilometre-long bridge over the Breede River marshes is something quite unique. Now, though, it is time to grit our teeth. Mile after mile the scenery stays the same, the Fontaintjies Mountains in the north-east lie, motionless, to our left, while the R60 itself is almost entirely flat, wide and seemingly endless. This is Africa, and the R60 is the only asphalt connection between Worcester and Robertson! But the R60 has a broad hard shoulder on which we can can make rapid progress. Flowing beneath the southern sun! At last! The teeth-gritting was worth it! A speedy descent brings us down to Robertson, where the traffic on the R60 eases noticeably. Once past Ashton we head for the glorious, rocky gorges of the Cogmanskloof - a dream! Anyone who still has a bit of strength to spare should turn off the R60 before we get to Robertson and take in the 25 kms detour through Bonnievale. This is a fertile valley of vineyards. The contrast with the monotonous R60 could not be more stark!
This extremely rewarding add-on, through fertile Bonnievale, is heartily recommended! 25 kms through splendid farming country with rose trees and vineyards!
Awesome! A fabulous stage lies ahead of us! We will ride three passes, including the duo of the Rooihoogte and Burgers Pass, and pass through the remote Karoo, via the N1 (a support vehicle will protect our rear) to the Aquila Game Reserve, up to Die Venster and down to Ceres, vast expanses and a great chance for the bunch to get in a rhythm! This is the epic, core stage of the Tour de Boland. You contend with temperatures of up to 40 degrees in the shade, riding 193 kms with over 2000 m of climbing, but our South African friends will be there at all times to lend a hand and provide support. After 160 kms, in Ceres, we can look forward to a South African speciality as we take a break for a genuine ‘braai’, as the South Africans call their barbecue. After this stop the worst of the heat is over and we can venture on for the final, beautiful section to Tulbagh. Anyone who has had enough in Ceres can just drop out and, given the many support vehicles, hitch a lift to avoid some of the midday sun. A lion-hearted stage which offers everything which truly defines South Africa!
As we have said, on this very long stage there are opportunities to sit sections out in the car. Either you opt out after the braai in Ceres or you bridge the hottest part of the day, around midday, in the car.
Today revolves entirely around the wonderful Bainskloof Pass. The stage is short, and we can do it stress-free, with no great effort. After a gentle, loosener section the stage really gets going when we hit the bridges over the Breede River. We head into the long drawn-out valley of the Witte River. The road-builder Bains had a road built on its banks in the early 18th century, and the path it traces has remained the same ever since. Roughly-hewn stones separate the road from the sheer drop on the left, while the cliffs tower above us on the right. Beneath the tarmac we are riding over lie the graves of the slaves who lost their lives during construction of the road. Given this macabre background story, it is with goosebumps that we gaze at the amazing rock formations on both sides of the road. A photo-stop at Dacre's Pulpit, a rocky outcrop that protrudes over the road, will be almost mandatory, but it is sure to be one of many during our final miles on our tour. At the settlement of Bain's Kloof our high point is no longer far off. To the right, views open up over the Wellington Plain, which we can gaze at again unhurriedly from a car park on the right-hand side. A sweeping descent takes us down into Wellington. At this point we are back on the plains around Cape Town. If the day is clear we will be able to see Table Mountain again on our left, and there is little climbing to do as we cover the final forty kilometres to our stage destination of Riebeek West.
Our lap of honour takes us over another pass, the Bothmanskloof Pass. We then ride into the wine-growing region around Stellenbosch where we should probably round off the tour at a vineyard, as we did last year. Then it's time for our organised transfer to Cape Town. This is included in the price of the holiday, as are the following three nights’ accommodation.
Saturday, 10th March is a day to ourselves in Cape Town: we can pick up our race ‘musette’ from Cape Town Stadium, and ride up Table Mountain or the Lion's Head. The Cape Town Cycle Tour will be held on Sunday, 11th March. Enough has been written elsewhere about this bucket list race, so we just offer a few facts: the 110 kms form the route of what many claim to be the most beautiful cycle race in the world. At the very least, it is the largest: between 35,000 and 40,000 cyclists, from absolute beginners to professionals, hit the road to create a carnival atmosphere. This is a MUST!