Cyclist hits the road for charity

ORIELLE BERRY

Friday April 1 will be no April Fool’s Day for Philip Erasmus. The 67-year-old will be launching the start of a 3 400km journey from Beit Bridge on the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe, from where, 34 days later, he’s set to end his journey at Eden on the Bay.

Philip, who lives in Blouberg, is an endurance cyclist and he’ll be taking his hardy Stumpjumper mountain bike with him.

The journey (BB2BB – Beit Bridge to Bloubergstrand), though, is not solely an endurance challenge, it will raise funds for The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).

In May 2014, Philip’s wife Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer and, after an operation and 18 weeks later, she had her last radiation treatment, appropriately on the last day of 2014.

“Because of this, I decided to undertake the journey to raise funds for Cansa. The idea was to get R100 000, but so far I already have generated R135 000 in funds for them,” he says.

No newcomer to riding roughshod through the highways and by-ways, he completed the Freedom Challenge in 2014, a 21-day trip over 2 200km that took him from Pietermaritzburg to Wellington. He’s also completed the 36one MTB challenge (361km; 36.1hours).

Earlier this year, he did his 26th Argus (Cape Town Cycle Tour). It was his slowest yet, he says, as he broke his wrist in January, also mountain biking, and reached the final line in 3h42m.

Philip started cycling in 1990 when his son Adré got him involved. Tragically Adré was killed on his bike in January 2015 when a truck hit him at Woodbridge Island in Milnerton on his way home from work, and Philip has written a heart-rending tribute to his son on his blog. Earlier this year, a memorial was erected at the spot where he was killed. It takes the form of a white painted bicycle, on which fresh flowers are regularly placed to remember the vibrant young man who was snatched away in the prime of his life, leaving a wife and a twin son and daughter who started school just days after their father was killed.

But Philip is, in a way, carrying on his son’s legacy by quietly cycling from Zimbabwe past towns such as Tzaneen, Pilgrim’s Rest, over the Long Tom Pass, through Chrissiesmeer, near Ermelo, then into KwaZulu-Natal, past Rorke’s Drift and through the Underberg, then on to the Eastern Cape, passing Cradock and Rhodes and Graaff-Reinet in the Karoo. His route continues through the Western Cape towns of Prince Albert, Willowmore, Laingsberg and Tulbagh.

The trip, which will see him travel through some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer, will be solo and unsupported, although many friends will join him for parts of his journey. A friend, for example, will be joining him at Rhodes on his motorbike.

“I’ll be making 31 stops and cycling about 100km a day, three or four days a week,” he says, showing Tabletalk a roster of the trip, which is planned down to the last detail of each day’s riding and the places he’s dossing down for the night, whether it is guest houses or at friends.

An accountant, Philip works from home and is gearing up for his big ride by cycling about 10 to 15 hours a week.

As we chat, his phone rings endlessly. Friday is drawing near, and he outlines the final details of his trip on the phone, chatting about transport to Beit Bridge, detailing how his bike will be packaged for his flight up north and what happens when he reaches his first destination.

His first day is a “quick ride” – 45 minutes from Beit Bridge to Musina – 16.9km away. Then the cycling will start in earnest with the next day an 80.1km ride to Waterpoort.

* If you want to sponsor part of the trip, you can email Philip at philipler@icloud.com or call him on 082 825 1782.