“This is Africa……”, By Matt Bigos


This is the first part of my around the world in 30 days or so trip. I left San Diego just over two weeks ago and headed to Cape Town to get a block of training in at my coaches house before the first UCI Paracycling World Cup kicked off in Pietermaritzburg. If you have no idea where that is, don’t be shocked. It’s a few hours outside Johannesburg. (Or about 35 hours of flying from San Diego).

Last year I did this race as the final to our World Cup series and finished my season off with a second place in the road race and decided this year to head over early to be better adjusted to the travel and have a real go this year at trying to pick up the overall World Cup series. Training in Cape Town I find to be somewhat similar to San Diego, the weather is great! The scenery might actually be better and there’s nothing flat there! After 10 days of training in Cape Town it was time to catch the short flight to Pietermaritzburg to get ready for racing! Side note, the airport in town has no terminal, no jet way, just one run away with a turn around at the end, and you get off the plane right onto the tarmac and are welcomed by the local chickens running around the place.

Racing started off Saturday with a time trial on a new course for this year that was pretty technical for what we’re used to for World Cups, and a little extra climbing made me smile a bit more. The weather kept looking a bit worse and worse leading up to race day and I am always up for some racing in the rain, so waking up Saturday morning to the sound of rain made me actually smile at racing a TT for once! Having not raced any UCI races this year meant that I was the first rider out of the start house in my group, I am not going to lie that I was a bit nervous. I’ve only raced one TT since this race last year and while my form has been good, it’s always a bit of an unknown until you get that first big race of the year in your legs. I probably went out a touch hard as I rolled out of the start house and managed to slip my rear wheel lose on the metal! Managed to settle into a really good rhythm and actually ride basically the same exact split for 3 laps on a 6k course. After I crossed the line I felt like I had ridden really well but no real clue how I finished as results from the announcer weren’t really coming across and a little confusion it was time to play the waiting game to see how I did. Once results finally came out, I was not only excited to see that I won, but that I won by 1:40! Not only was it the first time I’ve won at a World Cup, but the first time I’ve won a TT any where outside the U.S.! It was pretty amazing to get to stand on the podium at a UCI race and hear the U.S. National Anthem being played and see the flag up there because I had won!

Sunday rolled around and brought with it not just the road race, but some how worse weather! Earlier in the week Sunday was looking to be the best day for racing, but some how that went sideways! It was raining in the morning but nothing too bad and it even managed to stop and start to clear up. That only lasted a few hours and by the time my 2:45 start time rolled around, it was clouding up again and looking worse. Usually for World Cups we race just a few disability classifications together, but having a smaller field here, they decided to race the 1-5 together making for a decent size field, but a very wide range of strengths. We started in the “dry” and things rolled off pretty mellow, but as I tend to do when I get scared, I start riding really hard. Early on I put a few hard digs in to try and break things up and about half way through lap one I had the group down about half the size from the start and had one rider up the road in a different classification. By the end of lap one it was down to about 8 of us in the front group and no one left in my classification in my race. Which made my life a bit easier and it was time to just follow wheels for the next few laps. After I figured that no one was coming back across to the group I was in, I end up doing a bunch of work and the group kept changing size as we lost a few people and brought back a few that had gone up the road earlier on. Oh, and I forgot to mention that part about starting in the “dry” by about 30 minutes into the race, it was pouring! It some how managed to keep raining harder and harder for pretty much the entire race and get colder! By the time we finished it was raining like an afternoon thunderstorm in the south except it was about 45 out! With two laps to go the group I was in lapped the other riders in my classification and I knew I had the win in the bag! The final time up the last short climb I came off after some hard attacks from guys fighting it out in a different classification from me and I rolled in solo to take my second win of the weekend and first road race World Cup win!

It was pretty nice to roll across the line with no one around to know for sure I took the win! Having my coach John there that has helped me so much the last few months to see me take the biggest wins of my career was an amazing thing as well! Unlike Saturday the awards were right away and everyone cleaned up as fast they could that was on the podium and everyone was huddle together behind the stage shaking from the cold trying to manage to stay warm some how! I got to hear the National Anthem again and see the American flag up high again and even got my first World Cup leader jersey! Another first for me was lots of interviews! I think I did 5 or 6 over the two days and even made the local news, I am sure I looked like a little kid at Christmas as I couldn’t get the smile off my face after Sunday’s race!

After two weeks in Africa it’s time to pack up again and head off to Germany today for another UCI race this coming weekend and a few more miles in the air. I’ll have more up from this trip that has me racing on 3 continents, 4 countries and traveling about 35,000 miles this month!

There are so many people and amazing companies that have supported me and helped get me here its hard to thank everyone, I have to say a huge thank you to Nitro Circus, Travis Pastrana, Focus Bikes, Velo Hangar, WD-40, Engine Ice, Casp Clothing, Power Bar, Enve, U.S. Paralympics Cycling and I tons of others that have supported and stood by me!

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