Looking back at 2020 and what lies ahead

2020 was a turbulent year for all of us, myself included. There were a lot of ups and downs. Unfortunately, there were more downs than ups, but it did have its moments.

A highlight for me this year was getting to do my first stage race with the Elite category at the Tour of Good Hope cycling race. I competed against the best cyclists in the country, including riders who have completed multiple Grand Tours. I was way out of my comfort zone, but I came out of the race stronger than what I went in and grew as a cyclist. My best finish during the tour was a 16th place on the final stage in an elite field of roughly 70 riders.

In 2020, I did the most mileage I have ever done in a single week. I also did the most mileage I have ever done in a single month. Even with those two feats, my total mileage for the year was low. I only did a little over 13 000km this year, which is the same as what I did last year. In fact, after a short ride today I will have surpassed last years mark by a few kilometers. How is that for a weird coincidence? The reason for my low yearly mileage is that I was stuck in one of the strictest lockdowns in the world for 5 weeks. In South Africa, we were not allowed to leave our home for anything other than going to the grocery store! After those 5 weeks we went into a less extreme lockdown, but our government thought it would be a good idea to only allow exercise between 6-9am in the morning and only within a 5km radium from your home. Bear in mind that this was during the peak of winter and 6am was freezing cold and pitch-black. What this meant is that everyone who wanted to exercise did so during a 1-2-hour window. The streets in my neighborhood were packed with walkers, runners and cyclists. So much for social distancing! Besides for the lockdown, there was also a two-week period before Corona hit that I did not have a bike to ride, because I was waiting for a new crankset to arrive. That is why I had 7 weeks of no riding and a few more weeks of limited riding.

Racing through Stellenbosch during the Tour of Good Hope.

Off the bike, I was forced to say goodbye to my partner Anna in March. Anna is from New Zealand and was living with me in South Africa. In March, her visa for South Africa was expiring and we decided it is better if she goes home to be with her family while we wait to see how the Corona pandemic plays out. Neither of us could have predicted then what would transpire in the coming months. At the time of writing this we have been in a long-distance relationship for nearly 10 months and the end is not yet in sight. I have applied for a Residency Visa for New Zealand, but there is a huge backlog of applications with New Zealand immigration. It could take another 12 months until my application gets approved! I am hoping it is a lot sooner than that, but if this year has done anything then it has made me less optimistic. I am sorry to say that!

Anna and I shortly before she had to leave.

What about 2021?

South Africa has just moved back into a stricter lockdown. I am allowed to exercise outside, but only during curfew hours and not in a large group. Also, the big gravel race I had coming up in January has been cancelled. There is another gravel race in February that I have entered, but I will have to wait and see what happens to that one.

I will most likely find a part time job to do in South Africa until my New Zealand Residency is approved and I can officially immigrate to New Zealand. I have a good idea of what my goals are once I arrive in New Zealand, but it might still be so far away that I do not feel comfortable talking about them right now.

A good thing that did come out of 2020 is that all my family members are alive and well. We celebrated Christmas together in Plettenberg Bay. I am also enjoying my new gravel bike very much. Lastly, I am extremely happy that I was able to eventually apply for a New Zealand Residency. There is a lot to be grateful for in my case and I recognize that.

I hope that you survived 2020 in one piece and that the upcoming year will be a good one.

Paul

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