'Suikerbossie' looks down upon it all, pleased at herself as if to say, "Are you not entertained!"

As you approach ‘Suikerbossie’, you have just 17 kilometres to go to get to the end of the biggest timed cycle tour event in the world.

Your journey would have started, depending on your cycling ability and conditioning, approximately four hours before reaching this final hill. To get to this point, you would have already covered about 90 kilometres of the worla-famous 108 km route that starts in the Cape Town CBD and hugs the coastline around the Cape Peninsula to the finish next to the iconic Cape Town Stadium that was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

As you wind your way into Hout Bay, after coming over Chapman’s Peak, possibly the most spectacular coastal road in the world, the casual cyclist who has entered this race will be hurting. You will be drenched in sweat, on the verge of cramp, and the demons in your head will be playing tiki-taka with the myriad of doubts you have swirling about because you know that there is still the notorious Suikerbossie to tackle.

Described as a kilometre and a half of purgatory, Suikerbossie Afrikaans for “sweet bush”) is the last significant hill of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. It can reach in and rip out your soul, which is why the Hout Bay residents line the road on either side to watch this piece of sporting drama unfold. The ancient Colosseum must have felt much the same for the masses as they waited for either heroic victory or tragic defeat – equally entertaining to the crowd. Kids and parents from Hangberg, the fishing village around the corner from the hill, are mostly at the bottom of the climb. Further along, you have the kids and parents from the Imizamo Yethu (IY) township in their masses. A couple of the local watering holes along the route empty out onto the pavements, with music blaring and patrons dancing to the tunes in anticipation of the theatre to come.

As you approach the bottom of the hill and look ahead, you will see many cyclists have dismounted and are walking their bikes up the hill. Novices are often seen simply falling over as they can’t get enough forward momentum on their bicycle but also can’t ‘unclip’ their cleats from their pedals. So, they simply land in a heap on the ground with their bike. There are those that have been overcome by cramps and, if you look closely, you may even spot a couple of
grown men and women crying. The spectacle is accompanied by “oohs” and “ahhs” as each new drama unfolds, every rider bringing their own unique theatre to the gathered. ‘Suikerbossie’ looks down upon it all, pleased at herself as if to say, “Are you not entertained!”

Personally, I didn’t think I had this last hill in me. But I underestimated the power of the rainbow-inspired Hout Bay United Football Community cycling jersey I was wearing. As a regular volunteer for HBUFC, I jumped at the chance of wearing the cycling kit that basically is what our first team wears for home games, just a lot tighter and unforgiving on a middle-aged overweight man. As l started the journey up, knowing I would soon be walking next to my bike, I heard the first, “There’s Hout Bay United!” My legs ticked over a little harder knowing that eyes were on me. I mean, I couldn’t get off the bike until I had passed the kids cheering me on! Once past the audience, I eased off, struggling to unclip my feet from the pedals. “Come on Hout Bay United!” I looked up and a group of older gentlemen from IY were now focused on the
‘umlungu madala’ (isiXhosa for “old white man”) slowly pedalling up the hill. I passed them. I certainly couldn’t dismount before getting well past them. I do have some self-respect. My legs were aching – imagine grinding an eggbeater through thick lumpy mash potato – but I kept pushing, “Hey come on Hout Bay United!”, a soccer mom shouted. “Come on 7806!”, there was one of the 1st team players 100 metres ahead. No ways I’m getting off now. And as the colour of my jersey alerted the locals that I was part of Hout Bay United, that I was part of this football family, the next kilometre and a half became a conveyor belt of pure support. I was literally pulled up that hill and, rather than hurt, it was the most exhilarating part of the entire race for me. Had that hill been anywhere else, I would have quit there and then. But I was carried up that hill and I will never forget it.

It got me thinking about the HBUFC vision. Pulling and pushing me up that one-and-a-half-kilometre journey is a metaphor for what HBUFC is doing each day for a young boy or girl in its programme. It’s walking the journey with these kids, most of whom are looking at their own ‘uphill’ and wanting to get off the bike, to quit the race. Their uphill being poverty, alcoholism, gangsterism, lack of education, racism, malnutrition, addiction, family violence, etc. The list and degrees of elevation of these kids’ hills are endless. But you, yes you reading this, are one of the hundreds that line their hill. You make them stay on the bike and keep pedalling. Your support of time, expertise, wisdom, guidance, and resources is that shout in their darkest moment that keeps them pedalling. It’s that “Come on now, you’re almost there. You’ve got this. Keep going!”

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