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Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

At around 11am, the owner of La Cantina, the new Mexican joint in the Overberg’s Stanford, arrived in a hurry at the bottle store in Queen Victoria Street, his face happily flustered and his smile a little bewildered. It was his first day of business and it had been going more than a little OK.

“These people in Stanford have drunk all my liquor,” he declared, before diving back into his car to drive the 300m back to the scene of the crime where, no doubt, he would have been heartened to find that there was every chance the people of Stanford would also probably drink the full bottles of liquor he had just bought them.

Tuesday was a party day in Stanford. The Absa Cape Epic came to the village in a heated rush and left with a full heart and a smile. It crossed a bridge over untroubled water, lugged bikes up 47 steps on the Wandelpad and rolled through the first water point of the second stage on the village green, past the 143-year-old St Thomas Anglican church and on to a day of pain and glory.

They didn’t leave unnoticed. Stanford was up early doors to welcome the Epic. The floating bridge over the Klein River was the meeting point for many. At the house closest to the river, there was a royal balcony of sorts, snappers got ready to snap, bottles of bubbly were popped shortly after the sun came up.

The big party boats that take groups up and down the river for sunset cruises had anchored close to the bridge. The canoe club were out in force, a kid getting a cheer when he managed to flip his boat and then struggled to get back into it. A lady sat with her dog in her small kayak. If it floated it was on the water. The lifeguard employed for the day stood on a pontoon looking suitably nervous.

In the end, he had no work to do. Some had gone to see if riders would fall in, but there was just one swimmer all day, a gentleman near the back of the race who touched a wheel, got wobbly and took a little bath. The lifesaver dived in, but before he reached the wet man in Lycra his friends had fished both him and his bike out of the drink. He walked the rest of the bridge slowly.

We waited for friends to ride past. At 6am on Tuesday, Keri-Ann, my wife, woke up like it was Christmas morning. A good friend from Joburg was coming to Stanford. She had to make a sign for him to see. It read: “David Higgs Fan Club.” David is on his fourth Epic now, cycling being his other passion apart from cooking and running the country’s best restaurants.

Keri stood at the rope beside the bridge for more than an hour waiting for David. Telling riders apart is hard, the helmets and sunglasses morphing them into a sinewy sameness as they fly past. I saw old friends and new, and missed others I had been waiting for. But, for Keri, I tracked David on the Epic app. As he got close, I warned her to get ready. The sign was poised, the cheers rising in volume... but then I stuffed it up.

As David came past, I shouted his name to point him out to Keri. She waved her sign. She looked right and then she looked left. David looked at me, grinned and waved. David did not see Keri. He did not see her sign. He flew up the stairs and on to the aforementioned pain and glory.

The look I got from Keri spoke of unmentioned pain and gory.

We stayed beside the bridge for the morning, Keri doing god’s work in cheering on everyone who came past. Kevin Vermaak, the Cape Epic founder, stopped in by the river and was blown away by how Stanford had embraced the Epic. Riders smiled, pumped fists in the air and mouthed their thanks.

A few hours later, at around 11am, just as the man from the Mexican place was taking fresh supplies to the people of Stanford, Keri sat in the front seat of her car in the parking lot outside the bottle store. She had shouted herself hoarse, waved her sign until her arms hurt. She was going home to nap. The Epic had come and gone, and she had had the greatest of mornings. Well, apart from seeing David, that is.

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