Written for In the Bunch

Okay, so I’ve bumped into the Voice of Cycling on occasion, but I’m no stalker.

It’s simply a rumour that was started by my non-cycling staffer when I tried to explain to her who Phil was.

He is basically the celebrity in cycling and I’m a huge fan, I tell her.

So you’re like his stalker, she says, and, to my utter annoyance, it becomes a standing office joke.

Due to the nature of our work, Phil’s name comes up from time to time and, when it does, my staff look at one another while rolling their eyes – as if to say, yup, and here we have his stalker in our midst.

That I may have gone to great lengths to meet up with him at his homes on two continents obviously strengthens their case rather than mine.

That I may have been an invited guest – or at least a self-invited guest with the emphasis on the last word – is of little consequence to them.

For reasons of self-preservation, I therefore remain mum on the other contact that we may or may not have had over the years.

So it happens that Phil enters this year’s Old Mutual joBerg2c and we are tasked with interviewing him. There are glances around the workplace.

I know it would be tantamount to office-suicide to do the interview myself and I pass the job to the staffer who started and then fuelled the stalking rumour.

The message, which I hope to send, is that I have more important stuff to take care of and couldn’t be bothered to interview the man I’m allegedly stalking.

A few weeks later, fate intervenes when Phil and four of us are assigned a sedan in which to travel from our hotel in Jo’burg to the start of the joBerg2c in nearby Heidelberg. Possibly still on British time, he arrives slightly late with way too much luggage.

Being the only other male in the vicinity, I’m of course left to sort out the logistics of getting Phil and his stuff squashed in – all while studiously ignoring my colleague’s “now’s your chance” looks.

Not once during the ensuing journey, which includes a stop for breakfast and the little boys’ room at a QuickShop along the way, do I allow myself to get even remotely close to the definition of a stalker.

Even during the event I walk circles around him and am extremely proud of myself for doing so. This rumour, I tell myself, is now nipped in the bud and will definitely not be boarding the plane with us back home.

The contact that Phil and I may have had since then, especially in promoting the 2012 race beyond our national borders (by the way, solo and team entries are now open!), is not verifiable and possibly never happened should my staff ever raise the issue.

So, earlier this afternoon, with the deadline for this column once again looming large, I’m stomping around the office in search of inspiration.

Write about your favourite topic, suggests my staffer with the sole intention of stirring. It works.

My assistant, who is notorious for minding her own business and missing most of the office chit-chat, whirls around and asks: Is Coetzee stalking Phil again?

Coetzee is a former journalist and full-time cycling fanatic whose PR company focuses on sports communications. E-mail him at coetzee@fullstopcom.com, visit  www.inthebunch.co.za or follow him on twitter (fullstop).

Issued by:

Full Stop Communications

Coetzee Gouws
041 368 4992
082 575 7991

On behalf of:

Cyclingnews magazine