Helwan counter-clockwise, Rick and Geoff’s Farewell

Ridden June 2, 2017

I don’t know who suggested Helwan anticlockwise for my farewell ride. Maybe it was Geoff who was also being farewelled.  I wasn’t opposed to it. After all every Cairo ride has its unique mixture of pleasure and pain. My memories of previous Helwan anticlock rides are dominated by headwinds and false flats followed by frantic paceline activity on the way back through the toll booth to Maadi. Today would echo this and memory.

It was a nice sized group that hit the Autostraad and we made the most of the cooler weather, making pretty quick time through Helwan to the junction with the regional ring road. Nothing out of the ordinary here: just the usual array of locals shouting, donkey carts, pot holes, diesel fumes and spectacular countryside. I’m always fascinated by the sight of the forest of chimneys spouting black smoke in the middle distance. The pace was very solid and I wondered why people were in such a hurry. You never know what obscure segment the secret Strava Hunters might be targeting these days.

from left: Euan, Fritz, JP, Rick, Marcel, Geoff, Luis & Khadiga

this time with Joe leading the white jersey classification

 

After a short regroup and rest we faced we brace yourselves and faced the horror we all knew was awaiting us. The wind was in front, a little bit of left shoulder, but strong enough that more than a minute on the front was distinctly suboptimal. Fortunately I made it into a group of six who cooperated very politely for the bulk of the effort. Luis, Fritz, Ewan, Marcel, Geoff and I took turns in the wind and attempted to recover in the slipstream. I won’t name the Scoundrels who insisted on riding on the white line condemning the rest of us two either abandon the offset or ride in the gravel, but their tactics would have pleased the Belgians.

I was very wary of Geoff who was positioned immediately after me in the rotation and seemed the most likely to attack. And attack he did. When we got him back I called him a bastard and he pretended not to know that he was causing problems. I was behind Luis when he let a gap open up but he somehow managed to follow my wheel when I closed it – his signature move. I employed Bernard Hinault’s favourite tactic of counter-attacking immediately which wasn’t the smartest move but caused a little scramble and made me feel a little Pro. We were close to the AS Road now so It seemed fair to burn a few matches. The sprint to the middle of the bridge was a complete debacle. Everyone went too early, a petrol tanker did a u-turn in the middle of oncoming traffic, we called it off, then we called the back on and then Marcel gifted it to me. What a mess!

 

on the Regional Ring Road Bridge after the “mess”

 

Turning onto the AS road was a giant relief but still didn’t end the hostilities. Geoff and Marcel showed their good form with some spectacular work on the front. The landmarks went by in a blur I don’t even remember seeing the Cement Factory or the Heineken sign or the Jiffy lube. Oh that’s right I’ve never seen the Heineken sign or anything that resembles a Jiffy lube. But that’s what you get when you live in a country where the squares are round and the ring road is more like a horseshoe. At the final sprint it came down to Geoff and I and he was clearly the stronger man. Chapeau!

It was a tough ride. I knew that my promises to be useful in the afternoon would be broken. A mineral farewell ride for me as all the Essential elements came together – hard riding and a healthy mixture of teamwork and competition. Thanks to all involved I will miss it here for some strange reason. Special appreciation to our Capitan, Luis for his consistent, committed efforts to keeping the Cairo Cyclists healthy.

Rick, 08.06.2017

here the Orange team from the final breakaway, plus Pascal who joined at Jiffy

Porto Soukhna-Sky Mall back road

 

As the expat community in Maadi and the CCC consequently shrinks, to gather a number of 5 riders at the CAC for this special was not too bad. We departed today at 5:30 am with nice weather and winds of up to 24 kmh predicted. Weather.com defined the wind as WNW, while Geoff looked into the Norwegian weather site which predicted N wind. The weather channel proved reliable because we had indeed a hell of a tail wind in most of the ride. The temperature hit only 31C, rather benign also, i.e. nearly ideal conditions for most of the ride.

A new rider Euan brought along started the ride with us, a triathlete. He was riding with sneakers and a bike he bought for a short period while he leaves the country. Surprisingly, Fritz joined from CAC after spending the night in Maadi. So off we went to the Ain Soukhna road and met David Gamal and Mostafa in the toll booth. Also in the toll booth a guy called Chris, acquainted with Geoff, showed up and rode with us until the next stop at the km 72 Restaurant. After struggling in the way there with the moderate pace we put, Euan’s buddy realized it was better to change the plan and go for a shorter ride. So the tally was of 7 in this early part of the ride, 6 of them going for the whole distance of 150 km.

on the Ain Soukhna Road. Photo by David G.

On the recently broadened and repaved Ain Soukhna Highway, the pace picked up on the ascent to former Jiffy Lube, and benefiting from the tail wind it became really fast after that. On the descent to the third exit at km 60 the Egyptians initiated a hammerfest. The leg from there to the restaurant at km 72 was the fastest I remember doing there, with up to 65 kmh over several portions. Surprisingly, nobody weakened. However, shortly before the stop David got a puncture, the only way to slow him down.

After the break, there were 3 teams of couples side by side at the front: the America’s team (Geoff and Luis) with the orange jersey, the Brexits (Fritz and Euan) with the red jersey, and the Egyptian team (David and Mostafa). We were again doing 50-55 kmh when Geoff hit a rock and somebody yelled flat tyre seconds later. We rapidly changed the tube of the back wheel, but it couldn’t retain any air. The second tube did, but when he was about to climb on the bike I heard a “what the ….?”  His front wheel was also flat! Bummer. That rock really caused damage. I gave him my contingent tube, but Oh: it has about 5 patches on (times are tough for the industry). Well, it fortunately held all the air. Time loss: 20’.

Where were we? Ah, yes, we were hammering it, let’s retake that. Soon the long descent to the Ain Soukhna toll booth started at a speed of 65 kmh. Then I saw Mostafa passing by like a rocket in Froome style, i.e. pedaling hard sitting on his frame. I had not seen that being done live before, only in TV during last year’s Tour de France by Chris Froome on his epic attack descending on the Pyrenees when he beat everybody. Well, these guys learn very fast. There was no way I was going to attempt to do something like this at this speed.

The usual break at the Ain Soukhna toll booth came. Time to decide which way to attack the Sky Mall ascent, as last November the main road was ripped up and closed. We agreed to go for the back road, only done before by Chris and Euan last year by accident as they both got lost the first time they rode the stage.

The big surprise came on the coastal road, when Euan stirred up the dust passing the police check point and started to give us a hard time. From there on he pulled hard and constantly. I was second wheel for long time and begged him to rotate, but the answer was: “give me 3 more minutes”. Well, he hardly gave us a chance to pull. Here is where we all were stunned and started to suspect something strange.

on the coastal road. Photo by David G.

The coastal road takes you now up into the mountains for 3 km or so and back again to the sea, a newly constructed bypass of a resort area with beaches, which is now closed. This new intermediate climb is going to hamper further Sky Mall records. As expected, the peloton disintegrated here and Mostafa cracked. I was losing some seconds to David and Geoff at the front, but had passed Euan, and thought that was the end of his show. How wrong I was: he came from behind, brought me to the front and continued leading, while we wished we could have had a calmer final approach to Porto Soukhna with the big climb. With this constellation we hit the wall.

The Sky Mall back road: an unwritten, not officially ridden climb, it bestows the cruel pain described so many times before by others for the traditional climb, but worse. It starts steep and gets steeper, unforgiving, with no easy segment to catch some air. Euan and David went to the front (I still couldn’t believe), Geoff stepped on his pedals and tried to follow, and I switched to survival mode and observed the development of the race from behind. The climb’s average is 10.5%, with long stretches of 15% that felt like 20% after the distance and the heat. In the middle of the climb when David and Euan were gone and only Geoff was on sight, something unexpected happened. Geoff hit a HR of 188 bpm and wisely gave himself a break to prevent a collapse. I passed by at 8 kmh, he then followed and we both climbed in zig-zag to make the inclination ride able.

After an endless ordeal the road connected to the traditional one and I suddenly recognized the familiar Sky Mall sign with the last very steep slope. I could finish the ride after David and Euan, later Geoff and Fritz appeared, but Mostafa gave up in the middle when we were descending, after the usual pictures at the top.

finishers from left: Fritz, Euan, Luis, David & Geoff

 

at the finish line in the shade

 

This was my ninth ride out of nine official rides to this place, and I don’t remember to have struggled so much in any of them on the Sky Mall climb. A new segment is defined for the back road and David Gamal is the K.O.M, Mabrouk my friend. Euan’s performance explosion has not been seen before. This reminded me of Tobin and Timo on the coastal road, but also climbing like Jun in the famous September 2012 maiden ride.

The way back was a pleasure to share with Fritz, Euan and Geoff our recollections of this memorable ride. Euan was put on trial but we couldn’t make him reveal his secret. We are still wondering what that sandwich he ate at the toll booth really contained…

Luis, 05/19/2017

Observatory Ride Spring 2017: Pat’s Farewell

Ridden April 7, 2017

We assembled at CAC with Observatory novices in our midst. Joined by two CCC pillars, Pat and JP, we paused for the ubiquitous ‘Classic Ride’ photo – flexing quads and sucking in bellies.

 

At once the Maadi riders rolled out to tackle the dogs on the industrial road before climbing the stairway to Horus, picking up Fritz on the Soukhna Road. The pace was good and we were rewarded by the comedy stylings of Pascal’s driver at the toll booth who managed to discourage some soldiers from shooting a short Scottish rider who had jumped on the back wheel of a truck in order to bypass the fence en route to the ‘café’.

Whilst we refueled we were joined by our Egyptian friends led by old favourite David Gamal. The peloton had bulged to 11 or so by the time we left the Toll Booth. For the first couple of Ks, and before our first flat, Pat sashayed through the group exchanging memories and farewells – we are all honored to have ridden with the Gentle Giant of Cairo cycling and to share this ride with him. Not far from our thoughts were absent friends, in particular our Presidente: Viva Vergara.

CCC Legend Pat Brennan leading the new generation for the last time

After the pleasantries, the pace took a firm turn up a notch as between the toll booth and the beginning of the climb the average did not dip below 30km/h. Everyone took their turn, nose to the wind, as the group was reduced to 9 riders in pursuit of the mythical observatory climb. As we left the Soukhna Road, veteran of the Observatory ride Pascal took charge leading the rookies on a winding road into the valley beyond the traces of civilization behind. We all stuck closely together under instruction to look out for the black at which point we ducked right and the KOM race was on. David set the early pace with an immediate attack and his silhouette would be a familiar sight for the remainder of the climb. Fritz did his best to put pressure on David and Marcel on Fritz in turn. However, that’s how the KOM podium finished: David, Fritz, Marcel followed by the rest of us. David gave a good go but Nick Cameron rests easy atop of the leaderboard – at time of going to press.

 

After taking in some excellent views and the glorious decent, it was time to pull back to the Soukhna road where we were met by the broom vehicle and more jokes from Pascal’s driver – at this point there was no sign of an argument between him and Le Mecanicien. At this point, the Aussie legs were strong and the Scottish legs gone so it was a long hard struggle back to Cairo. Fritz, Rick, David et al raced into the distance as Chris generously dropped back to drag the Scotsman’s bonking backside back to familiar surroundings. We ‘soon’ picked up Rick who was halted by the second flat of the day and made our way steadily back to the total for chipsy and pop.

 

 

It was then we felt the depth of Pascal’s generosity as he drove his broom wagon back up the Soukhna Road in search of the Lanterne Rouge. Although we were too proud to accept the offer we were all inspired by the gesture to finish the ride on the bike. We even managed to regroup with Fritz beyond the toll booth after he had stopped for what must’ve been a mammoth break, one he really didn’t need as his legs were too strong on this day.

As we rolled beyond Horus we could reflect on a great ride perfectly planned by Pascal even though we were all too traumatized for coffee at Greco. We could also look back at the great sense of comradery and achievement as well as great rides with Pat who will be missed. Thanks for miles and memories as many have extolled the virtue of sitting on your back wheel.

Euan Macaulay, 04/30/17

Lake Qarun Ride 2016

Fayoum, Dec. 9, 2016

Three CCC Musketeers set off out into the desert

Today was the long awaited Fayoum Special, meticulously planned by Pascal.

Three resolute adventurers left Maadi at the crack of dawn, bikes on top of Pascal’s 4x 4. We saw the sun rise as we passed the Pyramids. At around 8:00 we arrived at Kasr Al Saga and left the comfort of the car. A cold wind was cutting across the desert from the east. We rode in a westerly direction above the northern coast of lake Quaroun. I told you Pascal’s planning was meticulous. We had a tail wind for most of the ride.

We set off at a cracking pace winding our way through the hills. Spectacular views were offered either side, to the right the mountains, to the left down onto the lake. The cracking pace was compromised by several stops for photo opportunities. We were in a beautiful landscape. It was quiet, apart from Issam the driver following us in Pascal’s car there was not another vehicle in sight and the air was clean. All in all a real treat for a Cairo Cyclist.

Magic lake

Magic lake

About half way down the length of the lake we turned left and raced downhill towards it’s shores. Suddenly  we had to slam on the brakes. The road ended abruptly. Another opportunity for a photo shoot. We turned round and climbed back up to the main road. At the top I turned round to see where the others were and had the shock of my life.

I saw Pascal was allowing himself to be pulled up the hill by his car. I didn’t think he was capable of such a horrifically unsportsmanly act. I rubbed my eyes. The phantom didn’t go away, however before I could whip out my camera to document the deed we were united and on the road again. Pascal will be able to claim it was some kind of desert mirage. Soon we began to hit sand dunes that had drifted across the road. We practiced our skills at navigating these. The trick is to go at than fast, shift down a couple of gears and pedal hard. This requires some nerve because of course none of us wants to lose control of our trusted steed. I saw Marcel keel over. Pascal, reckless rider as he is, was most definitely King of the Dunes.

athos-aramis-and-porthos

Athos, Aramis and Porthos

king-of-the-dunes

King of the Dunes

The wind was beginning to whip up and we could feel our faces beginning to get sand blasted. Plumes of sand drifting across the road created an eerie atmosphere. Marcel’s chain needed a clean having been plunged into the sand during his fall.

At the end of the lake we doubled back along the south coast into a cross wind. We worked in rotation and made good progress. After what felt like around 20 KM we turned off the main road and headed towards the Wadi Rayan Nature Reserve. After a few noisy villages we got to a kind of toll booth. Each rider had to pay 40 EGP to enter. The Car 5 EGP. Maybe because it was being driven by an Egyptian. I didn’t get the logic of this and tried haggling with the ticket salesman but without success.

Pascal announced that he was going to take it easy and he would see us at the mountain on the lakeside after about 20 km should we want to stretch our legs. Marcel took him by his word. The wind was in our favour. Marcel hammered it all the way and I was glad to be able to stick to his rear wheel. It was an exhilarating ride, flying through an eerie, empty, shimmering, desert landscape, peaking 65 KMH on a gentle downhill slope.

fritz-and-marcel-scan-horizon-for-pascal

Fritz and Marcel scan the horizon for Pascal

We got to Jebal Madawara at around 11:00 am in good spirits. Pascal arrived a few minutes later. There was a lot of regret that this is not a strava section. I am sure we would have set a new record.

After packing up our bikes Pascal demonstrated his skills at rally driving and took as across a series of dunes at breakneak speed down to the “Magic Lake” where we had our picnic in an icy wind. Like a true boy scout Pascal was well prepared and pulled out a couple of cold stellas from the back of his car. I think I can forget about that earlier incident.

A great ride in great company. We hope the riders employed in the oil business will be able to join us next time and we can form more of a peleton.

“All for one and one for all.”

Fritz Best

pascal

Pascal

marcel

Marcel

Hammerfest to the Sea

by Geoff Crawley

Porto Soukhna, December 2, 2016

Due to circumstances beyond CCC’s control, our semi-annual “Ride to the Sea” was delayed a few weeks due to certain situations in Egypt that didn’t actually occur.  To put a positive spin on this, it allowed me and my fellow Lycra enthusiasts to fester over the weather forecasts for the next several weeks, intricately watching the prevailing wind patterns, and sneak in an extra session on Mokattam hill repeats to prepare for the suffering that was to ensue (unless you were sitting on the beach like me the weekend of said hill repeats).  Unfortunately due to the delay, our Swiss “suffer-master” Marcel, was unable to join, after representing the CCC in Dubai at the Sea to Sea ride in preparation for this epic journey.

Geoff at the top

Geoff at the top with Golf of Suez in the background

Nevertheless, the day arrived and an eager bunch assembled at the front of CAC, clad in long sleeves and extra layers, and hoping that additional riders would greet us on the way to help keep the pace unpleasantly fast.  Luis, Euan, Joe and myself began the journey together.  Cold weather and pollution greeted us on our exit from Maadi, but as the small group of riders made their way onto the Tollway, the clouds broke, a pleasant morning of sunlight appeared, and the temperatures got even colder.  As the Tollbooth appeared, so too did the realization that the winds might actually be in our favor on this day.  A few minutes were spent at the Tollbooth preparing for the next leg and allowing all riders to regroup, and suddenly up came Fritz, a welcome addition to the team, though he and Joe were only going to do a part of the ride.  At least Fritz gave us some extra horsepower for the next section.  And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but David Gamal and his band of Egyptian Cairo Crit friends.  Smiles spread across everyone’s faces and we were ready for the show.

I will say the problem with a larger group is the inevitable flat ties that tend to plague certain choices of rubber (Continental 4-Season 25-28mm tires are the recommended choice of the CCC).  Since we were now such a large group, it did allow those of us who were executing the full distance to break away while said flat tire/half way members repaired their poor choice of tire/ego.  At the Regional Ring Road, we said farewell to Joe/Fritz, and continued on to the “Corona” pit stop at 73km (though my odometer only said ~70).  At this point we picked up Chris and Pascal, whom we believed would power us to the end, but yet we found napping.  With a bit of heckling from those of us who started in the wee hours, Pascal and Chris finally mounted their steeds and rode off for the rest of us to catch.  At this point the famous JP showed up, catching up with us and then making his way back to Cairo with a few of the Crit riders that weren’t going the full distance.  Once back in the saddle, it didn’t take long for us to see Pascal and Chris on the side of the road repairing additional flat tires.  Much to our surprise was that Euan had snuck out with them, and was well up the road.  Time to put the hammer down!

JP is back, here is the proof !

JP is back! Here at the Restaurant at km 70.

With wind at our back and the excitement of the long downhill stretch to the 2nd Tollbooth coming up, our pace quickened.  We could see Euan in the distance and each member took turns smashing the pace.  A quick downhill and a last uphill section saw us climbing at 40 kph, where we said goodbye to Euan and crested the top.  Pandemonium ensured as most of us realized our compact crank set up was good for climbing, but bombing downhill at 70 kph with the wind at our backs was not sustainable in a 50×11.  As the road leveled out, we took a break and allowed the scattering of riders that remained to regroup.

The last section of road prior to the final km’s of fireworks is fast, flat and ferocious as the coastal road from Ain Soukhna to the Porto turnoff is narrow, can have crosswinds, and most of the team already had 110 kms under their belt.  But this was not meant to be a joyride, and members again put out watts of power that mere mortals could not think of displaying.  With the fresh legs of Pascal and Chris, the pace was kept high, and certain members decided it was time to hang in the back and rest prior to the final.  Those of us who felt the pace was lagging moved to the front and made everyone suffer, burning matches that would not re-light once on the final climb.  After 34 minutes at 37 kph, the group saw the looming Sky Mall perched high above, the pace slowed and everyone tried to get a quick drink before the final turnoff.

I’m not really sure how to describe the final 2 kms of this ride.  Hell?  I’ve ridden Flanders and Roubaix, but those experiences did not prepare me for this.  My 34×25 gearing? Useless. My legs? Plugs of Jell-O.  My heartrate? In Defibrillation. Up and Up and Up we climbed.  And then some more.  Around a corner and a switchback, then up some more.   I watched David ride away from me as I thought I was actually moving backwards.  I saw Luis suddenly muster some courage as he told his legs to shut up and begin catching up to me.  Where were Euan, Pascal, Chris?  The others? Another bend and a fire station appeared.  Then a blockade!  The final section was blocked off!  What the hell?

The highest point of the day

The highest point of the day

 

descent-with-sky-mall

Descending next to the Sky Mall, in the background

Not to be denied, we began working our way up a golf cart path, across the fairway, and then up a final steep pitch.  We were on level with the Sky Mall, but were unable to get there.  Then the phone call came.  Euan had made it!  How you might ask? Because he was dropped somewhere along the coastal road and turned up the wrong climb, the shorter, steeper climb.  In the end, I guess we were the ones who turned wrong as we never made it to the Sky Mall.  Well done Euan, well done.

First end of a ride at a Golf court

First end of a ride on a Golf court !

Porto Soukhna finishers, behind the Hotel.

Porto Soukhna finishers behind the Hotel

Awards:

KOM: Euan being the only CCC member to reach the Sky Mall

Fastest Descent: Geoff at 69.5 km per hour to the 2nd Toll Booth

Most Flats: Chris (lost count at 2)

Sleeping Beauty: Pascal (because he is French)

Most Elevation Gain: Luis for doing an extra repeat in the search for the top  (1180m gain)

Longest Distance: David Gamal because he rode from Heliopolis (160.1 km)

 

Helwan Ride(counterclockwise): David’s farewell

May 20, 2016

Seven riders took the start: Rick, Fritz, David, Pascal, Marcel, Olivier and I. Ah, and there was also Chris who arrived 10’ late and tried hard to chase down the peloton in vain, even on the wrong route. We got to see him only at the finish line at Greco with new shoes that replaced his 30 year old socks with cleats.

Olivier made a come-back after his last ride in February, where he also struggled. This suggests it might be a good idea to get some training ahead of the big rides (Rule #5). His compatriots also made sure to give him the usual treatment for newcomers in the first leg to Helwan. On top of that, after the first stop at km 34 junction of the Asyout road with the Regional Ring Road,  his bike also paid tribute to the lack of action: the chain went on strike as we headed off up slope for the 37 km long leg. Only Fritz was aware of this and was there to help, so he will get an award for this.

While the peloton wondered what happened to these guys, we learned from the driver that Chris came out of the blue and rode with Olivier on the long leg. Fritz tried to connect, but we were 5 and the wind was coming against us at 19 km/h (according to the prognosis), so he had to talk to himself for 1h45’, but enjoyed very much the landscape.

At about the middle of the leg Marcel punctured, and while he was changing the tube the sag wagon miraculously appeared with Pascal’s repertoire of tools and wheels, so he got a spare wheel within seconds, “a la Tour de France”, and we only lost 4 minutes.

After we restarted things became hairy: David launched his first of several attacks aimed at dropping Pascal. The first one got him a small gap to the peloton, but the head wind was strong and he was reeled in. The second attack was contested by Rick and me, and I thought the others got dropped. I realized how mistaken I was when I saw Pascal and Marcel taking their turns. Then a third attack with the same outcome: nobody got dropped. This must have become frustrating for David, and this on his farewell ride.

We got to the top of the mountain altogether despite further shakes. There, Pascal made his move as the terrain became flatter, making lots of damage. David counterattacked on the hills of the last 5 km and he was definitely determined to take victims, evidently by his zig-zag course and looking behind (he has been watching the Giro obviously). Eventually he got rid of Pascal, and later of Rick, but he had to dispute a photo finish against Marcel and me at the finish line of the Ain Soukhna Bridge, whose winner depends on where you draw the line.

At this second stop, Pascal’s car with water came like fallen from heaven. Fritz rejoined the ride there, and the six of us started the way back on the Ain Soukhna road, now with favorable wind. Shortly before the toll booth, I ran out of legs, so what happened next comes from what I believe are reliable sources.

Pascal and Fritz detached from the others on the descent (true, you can see it in the flybys), but Pascal decided to wait for them for the sprint. It back-fired on him, as Rick surprisingly took him on in the sprint line by half a machine or so. Now it’s clear that his purpose of breaking a record of Mokattam repeats last week was to improve his sprinting skills. In any case, they get a scold for not honoring the tradition of letting the rider on his farewell win the sprint, although he tried hard to get it.

This ride segment ended with Fritz falling down on one of the speed bumps of the bottom of the road, fortunately without consequences. This is where the photo of the participants, except Chris, was taken. The ride ended as usual at the Greco without more incidents, and a superb mood. It was another fantastic ride, well done everybody!

Stage Awards:

Best start, aka the Suspicious Breakfast Award: Pascal

Combativité:  David

Sprinter: Rick

KOM: David

Good Samaritan: Fritz

Regularité: Marcel, all the day in the front pack

Lanterne Rouge: Olivier

Don Quijote against the windmills: Chris

Logistics provided by Pascal, without which the ride would not have been possible, many thanks amigo.

Luis

from left: Rick, Marcel, Luis, Pascal, Fritz David and Olivier

from left: Rick, Marcel, Luis, Pascal, Fritz, David and Olivier

 

at the Regional Ring Road bridge

at the Regional Ring Road bridge

 

 

Porto Sokhna Ride Spring 2016

April 22, 2016

What can be said about the Porto Sokhna ride that hasn’t been said before? Well quite a bit, since you ask, especially because quite a lot happened that’s never happened before. It started normally enough: an early start, a deep sense of foreboding and a small group with full pockets. Luis, David Luna, Sherif, Omar Khairy, Geoff, Fritz and me. We rolled steadily to the AS road where we were joined by a few locals while we stopped for the customary puncture repair. I was shocked to discover it wasn’t Omar! Actually I don’t think Omar punctured all day. So there’s one thing that hasn’t happened before.

 

CCC members among the pilgrimage of cyclists at the Cairo toll booth

CCC members among the pilgrimage of cyclists at the Cairo toll booth

 

Things started to get really different at the first toll gate. A bunch of 40 or so local riders gathered together from the Biscletta team and the Cairo Crit group and others. Amongst this pro-looking crew were Sir Omar, David Gamal and Ibrahim Helal. It seemed like the wind was going to be difficult so I welcomed the prospect of strength in numbers. The CCC group headed out first but we all joined forces a little before the now demolished Jiffy Lube and the pace really lifted. There was a flurry of efforts on the front and we stayed all together for about 20k sitting on something close to 45kph. Eventually things fractured but the mood was positive not least because our fresh legs told us the wind was at our backs. Geoff had to turn back at the Helwan exit and he was later able to confirm the wind direction after copping it head on for the entire solo return journey.

The owner at the restaurant at the 73k mark must have got the shock of his life when 40+ way honed hardmen rolled in and caused an unexpected spike in sales. With all these new and unusual occurrences it was comforting to experience something completely typical for the Porto Sokhna ride: Pascal with his car and driver joining in at the halfway mark. He was accompanied by Chris who achieved his own unique record of having a 30 year age difference between his shoes and the rest of his kit. Chapeau!

Storming the Restaurant at km 70

Storming the Restaurant at km 73

On the stretch to the Sokhna gate I was in a small group with David, Fritz and Luis. We swapped turns at the front and with the generous wind, made short work of a bit of road that usually burns a few matches. Not so with the last section to Porto Sokhna. Pascal made good use of his fresh legs and drove the pace hard and together with Mohamed from the Cairo Crit team got half the bunch onto the Strava leaderboard for this segment.

And then all that was left was the Sky Mall climb. Easy to say, hard to do. Luis dropped his chain at the base, security made a grab for David and I but we busted through with great optimism. I felt good, then OK, then awful, then close to death. Each corner the summit seemed closer yet impossibly higher. David was out of sight now. Only a cyclist knows this agony. Finally at the top we collapsed in the shade and willed the malaise to ease quickly. We watched each arriving rider deal with their suffering. Omar, Omar and David arrived almost together wearing their masks of pain. Two big records fell: Nick’s KOM eclipsed by Sir Omar and over 20 riders making it to the summit finish. Kudos to all.

Rick H.

Here are 21 Sky Mall finishers: absolute record!

Here are the 21 or so Sky Mall finishers: absolute record!

 

Sir Omar Adel landing the KOM at the summit in superb fashion

Sir Omar Adel landing the KOM at the summit in superb fashion

 

Omar Khairy and David Gamal giving everything at the finish line, prior to collapsing

Omar Khairy and David Gamal giving everything at the finish line, prior to collapsing

 

CCC finishers from left: Luis, Rick, Chris, Pascal, David L. & Fritz

CCC finishers from left: Luis, Rick, Chris, Pascal, David L. & Fritz