Excitement filled the air as the final day arrived, because this would not only be the riders last day of riding but also because the Red Island Ride would be hosting the first ever international mountain biking race in Antsirabe, Madagascar!
Called the Red Island Ride International Trophy, the event will give locals the chance to compete mountain bike to mountain bike with riders from around the world. Shoprite proudly sponsored the Red Island Ride International Trophy. Fiona Coward, Event Organiser, expands:
“We’ve received such incredible support from the local mountain biking community that we felt it would be fitting to top the Red Island Ride off with a race that brings all those passionate about mountain biking together for a little fun and competition. The Red Island Ride International Trophy is an opportunity for Malagasy riders to test themselves on a national stage and against international competition.”
The riders were ready and on top form that morning and South Africa, Australia, Botswana and Zimbabwe were ready to show Madagascar what they are made of.
We arrive at the Antsirabe Golf Course where the local organisers, Ligue du Cyclisme Vakinankaratra and it’s President, Andriamarohaja Bien Aimé, were setting up. Organised chaos ensued, marshals on a variety of vehicles arrived, barrier tape and banners were erected and a famous local DJ, DJ Nicki got comfortable behind the decks. The Malagasy entrants, a total of 35, began to arrive on a variety of bikes and with some serious competitive spirit! Think matching racing gear and local mothers strapping in their sons’ earphones with tape.
Then, in their full Red Island Ride kit (except for Colin the Fashionista), the riders arrived from the hotel. The Malagasys quickly converge on their bikes, and a conversation in the universal language of mountain biking ensues! Soon it was time to line up at the start (which happened to be at the Three Horses Brewery, the unofficial mascot of the ride). The route today will be a 43km technical loop around Antsirabe, with a 20km shorter route for those under 18.
Off they go, with bets on Stephane Lacas (Madagascar) or Lee John (Zimbabwe) for the win. After a little wait, with DJ Nicki and the MC warming up the crowd, an excited shout and sirens announced the approach of the first riders. Burning around the corner, two Malagasy riders hit the straight – it’s number 35 Adriafenomanana Zouzou versus 34 Rakotonirina Hasina, with Adriafenomanana just pipping Rakotonirina by 2 seconds. By 13:00, all riders were in and the results tallied: the Malagasy’s had taken all the spots in the Men’s division, with South Africans dominating the Women’s division.
1 – Adriafenomanana Zouzou 1:44:48
2 – Rakotonirina Hasina 1:44:50
3 – Miarintsoa Dama 1:45:04
1 – Claire Dowdle 2:48:16
2 – Marise Stumpf 2:51:13
3 – Anni Walls 3:09:57
The International Trophy would not be complete without a formal award ceremony; each winning rider took their place on the podium, smiling at the mass of Malagasy and International media filming and taking pictures. The winners were each awarded a beautiful, locally-made, engraved medal, with those in 1st place walking away with a new helmet.
Claire Dowdle, in true Red Island Ride spirit, decided to gift her helmet to one of the young Malagasy entrants. He will now be able to carry on enjoying this special sport in serious style.
A final and incredibly special award was announced for none other than Fiona Coward, without whom we would never have been able to experience the magic of the Red Island Ride. In thanks, President Andriamarohaja Bien Aimé awarded her an official certificate of recognition from the Ligue du Cyclisme Vakinankaratra.
After all the excitement and awards, it was sadly time to head back to the hotel and get started on packing the bikes for the flight home. Some decided to get it done in flash, have a quick change and head out to do some shopping – all the wives at home please breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Taking a walk down the main road towards the French-style cathedral, stopping at shops filled with raffia hats, woodcarvings, zebu leather and semi precious stones, the riders enjoyed a relaxed day out.
Heading back, one by one the riders all joined a table at a small local bar whose owner could not contain the excitement of having so many “Vazaha” (Foreigners) and so many beer orders! The stop for drinks was quick because the riders had to head back to the Hotel for a very special dinner and ceremony.
With heavy heads and hearts the riders then headed off to bed, it will be an early start and long drive to the airport before heading home! It may be the end of the Red Island Ride but it will be the beginning of something special for the newly inducted Elders of the Red Island Tribe…
Antsirabe is Madagascar’s third largest city and is the capital of the Vakinankaratra region. It has a population of around 180 000 people (2005 estimation). The city has a relatively cool climate in comparison to other cities on the island and is famous for its exports industry and for its high concentration of pousse-pousses (pulled rickshaws).
Popular tourist attractions in Antsirabe include the thermal bath centre, Hôtel des Thermes, the railway station and the residence for French retirees, all of which were constructed in the early 20th century.
Other points of interest are la Stèle de l’Indépendance (the Stele of Independence) and the two public markets: Antsenakely, known as the “The Small Market” and the larger market, Asabotsy. There is also a nearby Volcanic Lake named Tritriva which proves very popular with visitors to Antsirabe.