Uphill and around the bend

13 March 2006

Cruising: The Avian Demography Unit's John Cooper ascends Chapman's Peak during the 2004 Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour. The 109km race was part of the total needed for membership of the PPA 10 000km Club.

As a bird conservationist with international links and responsibilities, John Cooper's year planner shows whole weeks blocked off for travel to exotic places: the Falkland Islands, Tristan da Cunha–

He's amassed thousands of travel kilometres island- and continent-hopping for the cause, but converted to the joys of cycling 11 years ago. Since then, he's raced his way to another milestone: 10 000km in five seasons for the Pedal Power Association.

His last cycling race, the Oxygen Bay City Cycle Tour (his 120th PPA ride), nudged his total to a grand 13 603km.

Let's put that in perspective: "The Earth's diameter at the Equator is 12 756km, which I have exceeded at Pedal Power Association rides since I started riding with them in 1995," he notes.

With over 17 000 members, the PPA is reportedly the largest cycling club in the country, an offshoot of the venerable Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour.

Cooper first rode for the PPA in 1995 on his 1993 model Specialised Rockhopper mountain bike (he'd hired one in Yosemite National Park and the bug bit), the same bike that took him through three Arguses (1994-1996). He now rides a Cannondale R600 CAD3 road bike.

Cooper easily clocked the distance for qualification in the 2 000km-in-a-season target for the PPA 2 000km Club awards, but overseas travel commitments meant he was missing the next mark: the 3 000km in a season.

"My best seasonal total to date was 2 595km over 30 events in 2002/3." Seeking a new solution, Cooper persuaded the PPA to introduce the 10 000km Club in 2005.

"I argued successfully that this should be a prestigious award, difficult to achieve, that needed perseverance and commitment, and not just the steady accumulation of kilometres over the years. So the rule finally adopted is that to join the 10 000km Club one has to first become a member of the 2 000 Club five times, although the years taken to attain this total do not necessarily need to be consecutive."

Cooper exceeded the 10 000km target descending Slangkop into Kommetjie, qualifying for his PPA 10 000 Club black cap. He's now wondering if he should moot for a PPA 25 000 Club.

In which case, he's half way there.

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