Riding with Lance

Lance Armstrong is in South Africa under the guise of doing charity work for The Jag Foundation, but those in the know are seeing his master plan roll out. He wants to win the Cape Argus Pick n Pay cycle tour! His years of training in small French villages and riding in some of their smaller races has all be in preparation to stand on top of the winners podium in Sundays Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle tour. In the final days before the event I was able to catch up with Lance and assess his fitness out on the road.

Lance Armstrong is in South Africa under the guise of doing charity work for The Jag Foundation, but those in the know are seeing his master plan roll out. He wants to win the Cape Argus Pick n Pay cycle tour! His years of training in small French villages and riding in some of their smaller races has all be in preparation to stand on top of the winners podium in Sundays Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle tour. In the final days before the event I was able to catch up with Lance and assess his fitness out on the road.

Lance and my friendship started in 2009 when I started following him on Twitter – sure others follow him too, but I felt a special bond. I later caught up with him in Montpelier at last years Tour de France Team Time Trial where he brushed past me going into the start chute. I took this photo, I am sure it now hangs somewhere in his lounge and have even offered to sign it for him. I guess you could say we are fairly close acquaintances.

When I heard he was coming to Cape Town I got quite excited. Sure he forgot to give me a call knowing it’s my home town and all, but the Twitter heads up was good enough. I sent him a tweet offering a fold out mattress in my lounge (My apartment overlooks the Argus Cycle Tour start line) but it seemed he had found a Villa in Bantry Bay at last minute. I totally understand though, I know staying with friends can be a burden with a small baby and all the bikes, so its probably better for both of us if he stays in a hotel.

On Tuesday I thought I should spin the legs a little and ride the last 20km of the Argus Cycle Tour route. I thought this would be perfect training for Lance and his lead out man Daryl Impey, so invited them along via twitter. At 7 am I rode past his villa but there was no sign of life. The lights were off, and it looked like all were asleep. A little disheartened I figured he must have over slept, seeing as he only flew in the previous night I let it slide and continued on my ride alone. Around 10 am Lance tweets that he is on top of Chapmans Peak. No problem though, I was already at work and wouldn’t have been able to make the ride if he had invited me anyway.

L-R: Gary, Lance, Daryl on Chapmans Peak

On Wednesday I thought a second look at Chappies was a good idea, so invited Lance along. He forgot to reply, but I figured he would just show up anyway. It was a beautiful morning but I started feeling a little left out when I got to the top of Chapmans Peak and Lance still hadn’t shown up. I took a photo anyway and paused to enjoy the view.

I then turned around and slowly made my way back over Suikerbossie and down towards Oudekraal. I was still feeling quite fresh so went for the land speed record and tucked into a crouch position while pedalling like hell. The road flattened out a bit and I saw 2 riders in red outfits approaching. Due to the speed I was going I couldn’t make out their faces but the trailing X5 BMW’s with “Lance for Life” on their doors confirmed my suspicions. As I sped past on the other side of the road, I could swear I saw Lance sit up, lean back, wave a hand in the air and say:”Rob! pull in, join us”. That was my queue, I jammed on the brakes looked left and right and crossed over to the other side of the road. At this stage I think Lance began playing games with me and seemed to put in extra effort to break away. They had about 150 meters on me going up to the top of Suikerbossie, but I was equal to the task. I dug deep, put in a hard interval and before then knew it I was on their tail trailing the X5 right behind them. Lance had his game face on and I could see he was taking this training seriously. I tried to ride around the X5 but the driver honked his hooter and swerved violently left, almost running me off the road! He must have mistaken me for Alberto Contador, this often happens as AC has for years been copying my riding style. The driver also obviously did not see Lance wave me over so I resorted to hanging back a few meters behind them and biding my time before the Chappies climb.

As we rode through Hout Bay motorists and people lining the streets couldn’t believe their eyes. There were stares, arms were waving and some motorists even honked their hooters. I lip read one hippie Hout Bay local as he said “Is that really Rob Gilmour?”.

Moving swiftly around the bay we turned right at the Hout Bay traffic circle and before we neared the Chappies climb Lance and Darryl pulled over and disappeared into the bushes. Needing to relieve himself Lance opted for the Texan technique of standing over his bike, rolling up the shorts and shedding the excess liquid. This style often used by Cowboys at Rodeo’s and adapted by Lance over years. This gave me an opportunity to ride ahead, I didn’t feel we were “that” good mates to join him in the bushes. I then noticed that Lance had invited Andrew McLean along for the ride with me. A clever move I thought, Andrew being a past Argus winner and too old to offer any real competition this year. He could show the racing lines to Lance for this weekend’s big race.

We then made our way up Chapmans Peak. The pace was decent and I could sense Lance was warming up for a burst to the top. I played it cool, sat behind the X5 and let him do all the work pulling up the hill. I managed to outsmart the X5 driver as he got stopped at the toll gate half way up the hill and it was open road riding from then on. I felt good but subdued the urge to break early and sprint for the top. We then rounded the final bend and I could see the crest of the hill. Lance looked back and gave “The Stare”! The sprint was on. I let him lead the pack and could see he was nervous knowing I was right behind him. But then it hit me, dont be stupid Rob! Dont show your form before the big race! I stayed behind the peleton of 4 and gave the victory to Lance. They carried on down to the Noordhoek side and I chose to turn around and head back home. A shower, then work, that’s how we roll.

I start the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle tour in F Group, you better watch out Lance. Game on.