Monday, February 21, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Magic and Mishaps - by Nick van der Leek

The Cell C Tour of South Africa got off to a shaky start for me.  The day before whilst shooting a model in Pretoria I waded with her [and camera] into the shallow end of a hotel swimming pool only to find my camera was still in my pocket.  Since I'd made a few promises to provide 'front row' seats on twitter, and since I'd not specified my phone in my insurance, this was a minor disaster.

I've since bought a dinky toy replacement, with its only outstanding feature an FM Radio, but during the first stage of the Tour I experienced the power of social media all over again.  Since we initially didn't have race radio, and were stuck behind the sweep vehicle, we were there but we might as well have been on the moon.  A fellow journalist then began relaying the news to us from his smartphone - tweets coming from the public who were watching live on TV.  The irony was not lost on me - here was another instance where the public was informing the media, rather than the other way round.

While I do have a notebook with mobile connection, to remain connected whilst on the move is tricky, especially once one leaves urban areas and cellphone towers become fewer and further apart.  The same is true connecting via phone.  On the first and second day there was a temptation to stay at home and watch all the action live on TV. I'm glad I didn't - the view from the back of the Tour isn't dull at all.  You see most of the drama here - Charteau standing by the side of the road, riders falling out of the touch, the Commisar checking to see whether riders that have fallen out are making there way back on their own steam...

In terms of the Tour itself, it's exciting to see the figureheads of this wonderful sport gathered in one place.  From the non-competitor side, guys like Phil, Andrew [who is doing a fantastic job on race radio] and Gerald de Kock.  There are also a lot of journalists and photographers present who obviously love what they are doing, and know their sport, and that's great to see.
In terms of the riders, we have [had?] at least one team that's qualified for the Tour de France, although Europcar have had it rougher than most after just two days on the Tour.  On the first Day their leader [and a Tour stage winner] crashed out, and on the second...well, they had difficulty boarding a plane to Port Elizabeth and there is some talk that they may go home.  They should stay because the hardest stage [logistically] is behind us.
I'm not going to say much about Stage 2.  I think everyone is disappointed.  I am - a lot of effort went into preparing for this trip, flying to Johannesburg etc, and I am not even competing.  Imagine how the riders feel?

When I arrived at Montecasino on Sunday morning at around 07:30am I had an odd feeling.  For a second I thought I had arrived late and missed the start.  I didn't see anyone around. And surely the race would have started early since the route winds right through Johannesburg's innards.

As I say, I'm not going to say much about that, a lot is being said on The Hub and elsewhere.  Let's look forward to the next few stages - which ought to be brilliant, and beautiful - and be constructive.  Things can only get better.

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