April 13, 2006 – Tour d’Afrique, the annual 12 000-kilometer bicycle race/expedition from Cairo to Cape Town, billed as the most gruelling bicycle race on earth, is in its fourth month and the riders are about to enjoy two well-deserved rest days at Livingstone, Zambia, alongside the Victoria Falls.
Travelling through 10 African countries in all, the Tour is growing in numbers as “˜sectional riders’ join the intrepid “˜full distance’ riders who have already clocked up over 8 500 km’s from Cairo.
The 1 244 km section from Lilongwe in Malawi to Livingstone in Zambia, known as The Zambezi Zone comes to an end this Saturday. For the past 9 days the riders have travelled along the Great East Road in Zambia and have enjoyed the natural splendour of the Lower Zambezi National Park. The roads have been paved all the way, some of the up hills have been challenging, but in general, the riding has been described as “˜moderate’ by all.
The riders enjoyed a day off in Lusaka, which has been best described by Canadian, Sam Bail, the Tour’s youngest rider:
“I write this from a mall in the capital of Zambia. I’ve not been into the city and have no intention to do so. I’m as happy as can be spending the day in a mall. I realize this sounds crazy but when I walked into this mall I stared in amazement at everything (movie theatre, bank, grocery store, cafÃ©) in the same manner that I looked on in amazement at the first African village I went through. I feel like I’m seeing a movie theatre for the first time — everything is amazing. I feel like a small town African boy going to the big city. There is a Subway store across from me, a movie theatre beside me and fully stocked grocery stores around the corner; I feel like I’m in North America. I saw 2 movies yesterday after my ride and I plan to see a couple more today. The movie theatre even has real popcorn and candy!! After the day is over I’ll be ready to get back to Africa”¦ I think.”
Sam is being joined by his 74 year old grandmother, Ayala Manolson, in Livingstone to ride the “˜Khoisan Challenge’ section to Cape Town.
American rider, Matthew Caretti is in first position in the men’s race, followed in second position by George Oertel from South Africa with Urs Leuthi from Switzerland in third position.
Joan Louwrens from South Africa still leads the lady’s race, with Phillipa le Roux also from South Africa, in second position. Christa Meier from Switzerland lies in third position.
The 1 650 km section ahead of them, known as “˜The Elephant Highway’ will start from Livingstone, Zambia and end in Windhoek, Namibia. This section will take the riders into Botswana and for the next week they will be cycling some of the longest stages of the tour with 6 centuries (100 miles) in seven days of riding. This is a pure road riding section and a true test of endurance.
Next week also marks the start of a new section on the Tour, the “˜Khoisan Challenge’. This 3 196 km ride from Livingstone to Cape Town will see a lot of new riders joining the Tour and should add an interesting dynamic as “˜fresh legs’ turn up the heat in the race against those who have been on the road since Cairo.
Over the next 11 days, the riders will also experience some of the most impressive wildlife habitats on the planet as they get the opportunity to visit the famed Okavanga Delta near Maun, and cycle along the edge of the Kalahari and into Namibia.
The Tour d’Afrique takes approximately 120 days to cross the African continent, of which 95 are cycling days. The cyclists cover an average distance of 125 km (75 miles) each day with a rest day every 5-6 days.
To follow the race or for more information, visit www.tourdafrique.com