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Rise and shine: Islanders ride high in the saddle to raise money for charity

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Imagine attempting a 65-mile bicycle trek across steep, hilly terrain without training and when you aren't fit.

That's what Horst Finkbeiner II did. The Bermuda Commercial Bank chief operating officer took part in the Argus Pick and Pay 2013 Cycle Tour in Cape Town, South Africa last month with eight other BCB employees.

They pedalled to raise money for FoodBank South Africa, a charity that feeds thousands of impoverished people in South Africa on a daily basis. It was started several years ago by Bermuda resident Alan Gilbertson.

The tour runs along the scenic False Bay coast, past the entrance to the Cape of Good Hope and over gruelling Suikerbossie Hill. It is the largest timed cycle tour in the world, with over 40,000 participants.

“This was a first time thing for me,” said Mr Finkbeiner. “My wife bought me a bicycle for Christmas two years ago. But I wouldn't consider myself a cyclist. I didn't really ride it around Bermuda before I left and no, I'm not particularly fit.

“I would definitely do it again, but next time I would train more beforehand.”

It took him seven hours to complete the tour. Some of the hills on the route were too steep for him to handle and he had to push his bike.

“FoodBank is a very interesting charity,” he said. “It feeds approximately 56,000 people every week. They collect excess food from grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants and they warehouse it. From that warehouse they distribute that food to people who need it. There is quite a large population of people in South Africa who really need that food security. FoodBank really needs support. They provide food to over 1,000 different organisations such as orphanages and schools. The BCB does a lot in Bermuda, but we saw it as an opportunity to do more in an area of the world that really does need help.”

Twenty percent of South African homes — that's 11 million people have poor access to adequate and clean food.

Mr Finkbeiner's colleagues, Greg Reid and Neil de ste Croix, fared a lot better than he did.

“I started right in the middle of the group,” said Mr Reid, BCB's chief financial officer. “With that many people in the tour, they let about 600 riders go every four minutes. I was fitter than Horst and fitter than most people around me in the race. I had to pass a huge amount of people, about 9,000. No-one passed me in the whole race. I ride for a team in Bermuda called Team Madison. Neil had a very good time and started at the front.”

Mr Reid finished with a time of three hours and 43 minutes. Mr de ste Croix finished after three hours and four minutes.

Mr de ste Croix, general manager of BCB Paragon and BCB Charter and co-owner of Bermuda Cycle Works, said the high number of rank amateurs on the tour made it one of the scariest events he had ever participated in.

“I was at the front with the first 400 or so people,” he said. “There were a large number who weren't proficient on a bike, but they were fit. There were a lot of crashes near the start. It did get easier as you went along. The aim was to get past as many people as you could and get further up. The further up you went, the better the quality of rider around you. It was really good fun. It was challenging and fun and I would definitely do it again.”

The tour was started in the 1970s with 500 riders to highlight the lack of proper bicycle paths around Cape Town.

“It really is a fantastically organised route,” said Mr Finkbeiner. “You are basically circling the base of Table Mountain, going through various towns and villages all around the coastline. It is one of the most scenic routes in the world. The support from the local population was unbelievable. Everywhere you went there were people. Every hotel along the route had an event at the same time so we were being cheered on the entire route.”

While they were in Cape Town they visited two orphanages that were being helped by FoodBank. It was a sobering experience.

“It was overwhelming,” said Mr de ste Croix. “One of the orphanages was a tin shack with 28 kids between 20 months old and 16 years old. They rely on food donations from FoodBank. We took old Saltus school uniforms that were left over after a logo change. Before we left they were all dressed up in Saltus kit. The other place was an orphanage/care facility for children with cerebral palsy. It was quite incredible. Some of the kids had no clothing at all until we got there.”

The group isn't certain how much money they've raised but estimate anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000.

Useful website: www.capetownmagazine.com/cape-argus-pick-n-pay-cycle-tour . To make a donation visit www.foodbank.org.za .

From left to right Neil De Ste Croix, Alan Gilbertson Bermuda resident and Founder of FoodBank, Horst Finkbeiner II, and Greg Reid.
Greg Reid and Neil De Ste Croix with an orphanage employee in Cape Town, South Africa.
Horst Finkbeiner II on his bicycle during the Argus Pick N Pay Cycle Tour in Cape Town South Africa.
Map of the route around Cape Town, South Africa.

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Published April 04, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 04, 2013 at 9:34 am)

Rise and shine: Islanders ride high in the saddle to raise money for charity

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