Photos by Stan Engelbrecht
Over the next few weeks Kirsten shares her experiences as she trains, preps and competes in one of South Africa’s most grueling challenges – the Tour of Ara.
It will become my maker place.
In a few weeks I will find myself in a place I fell in love with because it overflows an absence clutter by day and the primal magnificence of creation by night. The Karoo is one of South Africa’s treasures in its understated succulent diversity and hardship. It is essentially who we are.
Hundreds of kilometers of gnarled rock, gravel and time-hardened semi desert will roll out beneath the wheels of 40 vintage racing bicycles for the inaugural Tour of Ara. A 6-day stage race unveiling 730km of Karoo landscape and the antifragility of the South African frame. This journey pays homage to the ‘Hero Era’ in cycling where participants in events were entirely responsible for their bikes, minds and strategy. En-route support was unknown and unwelcome. Jerseys were made of wool and riders were made of mettle.
This will be my first race. My first dance with machine and expectation.
On Arae, two things will become clear: the legacy of South African makers who have crafted machines of excellence, and the making of a steele of cycling camaraderie amongst participants that will add to the legacy of the sport.
Preparation for what essentially amounts to 6 Argus tours ridden back-to-back is an unknown to me. I cannot waste energy wondering if it is even possible. I must set my mind to knowing that in its completion, I will be made. Taken apart, moulded and remade. As each component of my bicycle is being assessed, scuffed and reshaped in the workshop of a master frame builder, so too will I allow Arae to be my maker space.
When Francois du Toit and I ride alongside one another climbing up to Sutherland we will smile knowing that master building from racing machines to city streets are much the same – made with passion, to be fully enjoyed, entirely tested and then remade for new pleasures.
Can a journey ever be truly known?
It’s distance is but the skeleton upon which beauty is woven.