By Alexander Rohrer
An account of the breathtaking experience of cycling the Tour de Maurice
As a bunch of students most of whom have never raced out of the country before, heading to The Tour de Maurice was an incredible opportunity that we may not get again any time soon and so it could not be missed.
The idea of sending a team came about when Matthew How, one of our team members and a Med Student at UCT from Mauritius, found out about the race and saw the potential to send a Private Client Holdings UCT team. From there we went about trying to find financial support for 6 of us to go whilst at the same time choosing the best 6 riders from the club that would be able to make the most out of the tour.
Upon arriving in Mauritius we were immediately greeted with warm and humid weather, a stark change to the cold winter of Cape Town. The roads were in fantastic condition, and we could not wait to get out on our bikes and explore the country better. The people of Mauritius were all incredibly friendly and despite the language barrier, we never once felt out of place. On Sunday and Monday we took the opportunity to go and have a look at the major climbs of the race. Both the opening Prologue and Saturday’s queen stage took on tough climbs.
The prologue climb was only 2.7km long, but the heat would be a major factor with temperatures reaching the mid 30’s on race day. The queen stage climbs were completely different beasts. For most of us, we have never had the opportunity to race on long climbs and so when we were greeted with a 12km climb and a 10km climb in one stage, we knew that the whole team would be venturing into uncharted territory. From our recognizance ride on the Monday, we quickly realized that the climbs were both very long and steep. However, riding a small part of the first of the Queen Stage’s climbs before the race provided us with an opportunity to take in the incredible beauty of the island.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that our team was one of the strongest teams in the race, making us feel a whole lot more comfortable and ready for the racing to follow. It was our first time racing in a major tour and we really enjoyed the structure to the racing. The peloton (main group of cyclists) was controlled by the strongest teams in the race, and luckily due to our position overall (and by leading the white jersey category) we were considered one of the strongest teams in the bunch. This gave us the ability to ride with more freedom and authority.
Having this order to the bunch makes a big difference, as it means that breakaways are allowed to go off the front with the knowledge that they will be brought back before the end. However, there was one occasion where the break actually stayed away, allowing a rider of a different style to win the race. Considering almost all of our races end in sprint, it was really cool to see riders of all kinds of riders to compete for stage honours, and have an impact on the race.
It will be hard to come back to racing here and not miss the incredible experience of racing in a new country. We hope that the lessons we learnt from racing in Mauritius will give us the ability to mix things up, and try and win in different ways to before. Who knows, maybe we will even make it back to Mauritius next year.