Every March, since 1978, hoards of people have descended upon Cape Town, clad in padded lycra shorts and cycling helmets, much to the dismay of the locals. Capetonians are a notoriously trendy bunch, choosing either couture or thrift-store one-of-a-kind pieces over sportswear. However, in March we make an exception. We make an exception because the largest cycle tour in the world comes to town – the Pick n Pay Argus Cycle Tour. That is to say, that if one positions oneself correctly along the route the day’s outfit might be seen by no fewer than 35 000 people.
Forgetting the fashionistas for a moment, the Argus (as the cycle tour is also known) is a serious event on the calendar for cyclists and spectators alike. The route covers approximately 110 km of the stunning Cape Peninsula, making it possibly the world’s most beautiful cycle race. However, the route’s beauty does not belie its challenges as not only is it over 100km in length but it comprises some brutal climbs, and if it’s one of those years, ferocious winds. In 2009 the race was stopped due to howling winds reaching 120km/hour! This race, although often attempted by amateur cyclists and even children, is not for sissies. ‘Sissies’ have their own ‘tour’ namely, the Dining-OUT Culinary Tour of the peninsula, a compendium of Cape Town restaurants which lie on the route of the 2013 Cape Argus Cycle Tour. Arguably the only difference is that there is no lycra involved in our tour, nor bicycles come to think of it (although bicycles are welcome).
The cycle tour kicks off at Hertzog Boulevard in Cape Town’s CBD on the 10 march 2013, while our tour commences any day of the week at the Five Flies restaurant, a trendy, fine-dining experience in the heart of Cape Town. The cyclists then briefly follow the N2 along Nelson Mandela Boulevard before finding themselves passing Newlands Forest on the M3 to Muizenberg. It’s at this point we meet up with them (in spirit at least) at The Gardeners Cottage, a delightful lunch spot set in the leafy garden of the Montabello Design Centre, a few short blocks from the forest.
The cyclists then climb Wynberg Hill and drop a little at the other side as they pass the Alphen offramp. We stop here for a drink under the old Oak, illuminated by fairy lights at The Rose Bar at the Alphen Hotel.
They then continue onwards along the relatively flat section on the traditional route which hugs the coast from Muizenberg through to Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town. Those of us not interested in working up a sweat can stop for a specially-brewed coffee and a croissant at Tribakery in Kalk Bay, before moving onto lunch (or sundowner cocktail) at Seaforth, a seafood restaurant set right on the ocean next to Boulder’s Beach.
From Simon’s Town, the cycle tour’s route follows the peninsula past the entrance to the Cape Point Nature Reserve, through Scarborough and Kommetjie, where the Dining-OUT Culinary Tour stops off at The Pickled Fish restaurant at Imhoff Farm (a child-friendly favourite). Both tours then steam ahead through Noordhoek, with the culinary version taking pause at a Noordhoek institution, The Red Herring, with its cosy fireplace downstairs or sweeping views from the upstairs bar. Before catching up with the cyclists and simultaneously missing the slog that is Chapman’s Peak, the culinary team pops into the Chapman’s Peak Hotel (at the bottom of Chapman’s Peak and the entrance to Hout Bay) for a scenic glass of wine and a plate of lobster.
Exiting Hout Bay offers the cyclists their final serious uphill battle as they climb Suikerbossie Hill before joining the Atlantic Seaboard road and pedalling through Camps Bay, Clifton, Bantry Bay and Sea Point. Unlike them though, the foodies stop for a seafood-fueled rest at the SASSI -approved Codfather restaurant.
Finally at the end of a long Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour, the competitors cross the finish line next to the Greenpoint Stadium with achy bottoms and a sense of achievement. Participants in the Dining-OUT Culinary Tour of the Peninsula end off with a Turkish-style meal at Anatoli in Greenpoint and perhaps a few extra kilos round the waist. Extra kilos and achy bottoms are both but a small price to pay for the joy of participating in either tour, be it the Cape Argus Cycle Tour or a tour of Cape Town restaurants. Cheers to that!