Going forward on day 1 in neutral

By David Moseley

Day 1 of joberg2c is a neutral day. Except for celebrity cyclist, commentator, and professional Arnie Geerdts impersonator Gerald de Kock.

Gerald has to talk (sometimes as Gerald, sometimes as his Arnie Geerdts character) to so many cyclists on the route that instead of the day being neutral it’s more of a reverse day for him as he goes back and forth chatting to so many different riders.

A common conversation starts with an excited rider, thrilled to see their hero in the flesh, calling out: “Hi Gerald, how you!?”. Gerald, affable as ever, responds, “I’m well thanks, and you?” The rider, noting the hint of confusion in Gerald’s voice, then adds. “It’s me, Tony. We met at that event. That one where we rode. The one in the Cape.”

Now as the Official Voice of Cycling in South Africa (and still South Africa’s best-ever cricket commentator – my apologies, Brett Proctor), Gerald goes to about 709 events a year where he meets a monstrous number of people.

So when a rider says he met Gerald at an event, the conversation becomes wonderfully vague, especially when it’s taking place 30km into a 117km stage on the first day of a nine-day ride. “Ah yes! Tony!” says Gerald. “That’s right, that was an excellent ride.”

This happens to Gerald at least 30 times during a day’s riding, as well as the enthusiastic cries of “Arnold, I thought you were a runner!”

All this is to say, if you want to make 117km of cycling go by in a flash (and indeed nine days), you need to ride with Gerald because the situations are endlessly amusing.

It also speaks to the nature of joberg2c, a ride that has found its place in the world by evolving from a race to a tour over the course of its 11 years (of which Gerald has ridden 10 and is now riding his 11th).

The tour aspect comes from the route design and the atmosphere of the event which lends itself to people just enjoying random conversations as they make their way through the day.

Every day, riders move from town to town through isolated parts of South Africa. The ethos of the event ensures that all riders enjoy themselves and ultimately cross the finish line in Scottburgh on Day 9 having made new friends along the way.

This is no doubt why joberg2c appeals to foreign cyclists – 28 countries are represented this year, everywhere from Denmark to Cape Town. There are nerves, yes. Nine days on a bike is no small undertaking, but mostly there are smiles and generous conversations.

Day 1 is a day for riders’ to find their groove and their place in the field. It’s a long, steady trek from Heidelberg just outside Johannesburg to Frankfort in the Free State. The route takes riders through farms, along district roads, and, thanks to recent rains, over the engorged Vaal River.

There was mud, there was moaning, there was groaning, there were cheers at long downhills, and grins as milestone kilometre markers were passed.

There were boerie rolls, koeksisters, Jelly-Babies, egg mayo sandwiches, pork sausages, and poffertjies (no idea, but the nice Afrikaans ladies make them, so they must be good – and they are good).

There were fans of Gerald, fans of Arnie, and one non-fan of Gerald at the second waterpoint, a purple-haired dear who drove her car over his bike. Clearly, she thinks Brett Proctor is a better commentator.

For this rider, it was a breeze cruising alongside Gerald and Co thanks to the generous loan of a Pyga MoBu from joberg2c bike partner, Pyga Mountain Bikes. The MoBu is a long-travel bike with fast-rolling tyres and a carbon frame made in Johannesburg, making it the only carbon-frame bike made in Africa.

Pyga’s Richard Crouse calls it a “race weapon” which is not quite the mindset of this rider, but the bike certainly gobbled up the district roads greedily, garnering a few envious looks from other riders in the process. Pyga’s involvement is another factor that creates the tour environment of joberg2c – riders are able to test ride a Pyga on any given day, while the bikes are also loaned out to riders whose bikes have come to a premature end during the event. Riders arrive at joberg2c with their bike, but many have been known to leave with a Pyga.