February 24, 2008 – (Yigre Allem, Ethiopia) – Having clocked up over 3800 km’s since leaving Cairo, Egypt 6 weeks ago, the riders on this year’s Tour d’Afrique, the world’s longest and most spectacular bicycle event, recently celebrated the completion of the second section of the Tour, The Gorge, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and are currently bound for the Ethiopian/Kenyan border town of Moyale.
Having enjoyed two rest days in Addis Ababa, the riders hit the road again this week, starting the third section, ‘Meltdown Madness’, a 1580 km stretch from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. However, due to political instability in Kenya, the tour will travel only as far as the Ethiopian/Kenyan border town of Moyale, at which point the participants will catch onward flights to Tanzania. “Riders will have a two week break before the tour starts again in Arusha on 16th March.” said Tour Leader, Miles MacDonald.
Jos Kaal from Holland is the overall current leader in the race, followed by Bernd Prorok from Austria who holds onto second position, slightly ahead of Ironman from Canada, Chris Wille.
On the first section, Pharoah’s Delight, a 1959 km stretch from Cairo to Khartoum, the riders cycled along the shores of the Red Sea, crossed the rugged mountains of central Egypt and explored the ancient temple of Karnak in Luxor before traveling by boat down Lake Nasser into Sudan, one of the most remote and least visited countries in the world. Cycling through two extremes in Sudan; the lush banks of the Nile and desolate deserts, the riders have passed through villages that have not changed in hundreds of years and have experienced the hospitality of a people who have lived by the Nile for thousands of years.
The second and arguably the most punishing section of the race, The Gorge, took the riders from Khartoum, Sudan through to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. This 16-day, 1,592-kilometre section brought many changes as the riders traveled from the Arabic Muslim world of Northern Africa into the more tribal and traditional nature of the Horn of Africa. “In sharp contrast to the dry and dusty desert landscape of Sudan, the riders have been challenged by the rolling highlands of Ethiopia, mischievous, stone-throwing children, and the infamous Blue Nile Gorge.” said Henry Gold, Founder of the event.
The Blue Nile Gorge, for which The Gorge section is named, is a bone rattling decent of 1700m followed by a leg throbbing 1700m, 22km time trial to the top. “This stage has it all.” said Gold. “Tight switchbacks, brutal climbing, loose gravel, dust, unfinished tarmac, potholes, quick children, and zipping traffic.”
Over 90 riders from 17 different countries, ranging in age from 23 to 67 are participating in Tour d’Afrique 2008. On their journey through 10 African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) the riders travel past ancient temples, through game reserves teeming with wildlife, across deserts and the foothills of legendary Mount Kilimanjaro, alongside the rugged and biblical landscape of Ethiopia’s Simian Mountains and through Botswana and Namibia’s most magnificent wilderness areas.
Apart from experiencing the sheer joy, exhilaration and freedom that comes with crossing a continent by bicycle, one of the main goals of the company is to raise awareness of the damage being done to the environment through society’s increasing use of motorized transportation. Dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere as a result of the use of cars worldwide play large part in the global warming crisis. “It’s common sense that the world needs to restrain the growth and use of car transportation.” said company founder and environmental activist, Henry Gold, who launched the first Tour d’Afrique 5 years ago in 2003. “Neither urban infrastructure nor the environment can sustain such dangerous levels of growth. As we travel across Africa over the next four months, we look forward to supporting this message. By proving that it’s possible for ordinary people to cross an entire continent by bicycle, we hope to inspire more people to use bikes instead of cars in their daily lives.”
Gold and his team are pioneering a new cycling category, trans-continental bicycle touring. “The response to our 4 epic events is snowballing.” continued Gold who recently led 37 cyclists across Asia and China on the inaugural Silk Route Bicycle Expedition.
Orient Express 2008, Silk Route 2008, Tour d’Afrique 2009 and the company’s newest event, Vuelta Sudamericana 2009, are open to anyone over the age 18 who has undertaken a medical examination to ensure that they are physically capable of participating in this journey. Individuals under 18 must provide release from their legal guardian in order to partake, and no one under the age of 16 years is eligible.