(Cape Town, 06 March 2016) At the sharp end of the field, Clint Hendricks (RoadCover) crossed the finish line of the 39th Cape Town Cycle Tour at around 10 minutes to nine, a long time before a big chunk of the 35 000 riders in the world’s largest individually timed cycle race even started.
David Bellairs – a Director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, organisers of the annual event – was ecstatic about Hendricks’ win (and indeed an all Cape Town podium) in what many are calling the most exciting Cape Town Cycle Tour in modern memory. “An absolute dream win,” he said. “The top European mountain bikers were out to show the roadies what was happening, but to have three Cape Town boys take the podium, I couldn’t wish for anything better for the Cape Town Cycle Tour,” he said.
While it is the most prestigious South African road race for a pro to win, Bellairs is always vocal about how the real champions on the day are the 35 000 other riders. “There is little bit of a breeze out around Cape Point which will keep the guys cool,” he commented of the back markers, in the first event of the World Association of Cycling Events series 2016 (www.wacebike.com).
And were they out on their bikes – fat bikes, mountain bikes, hand cycles and unicycles made up the wheeled, multi-coloured, lycra conveyor belt around the Peninsula. There was even one crazy trio who thought it would be a good idea to ride a ‘triplet’.
If there was a point that defined this classic Cycle Tour day, it must have been the Suikerbossie climb.
It was here where young Keagan Girdlestone (Dimension Data Continental) broke away and caused the peloton to reorganise themselves for the final move that delivered Hendricks.
It was on that infamous climb where the ever-chirpy Jan Braai realised his PB was insight. “My goal was to go sub-three,” he explained. “I thought if we go well we’d do a 02:50-something, historically looking at the B-group times… But I was hoping – if all the factors played into our favour – maybe to get that very elusive thing that starts with a 02:40…” Jan finished in 02:49:00 and was visibly elated. “I don’t know if I will ever do that again,” he said, explaining how the conditions were absolutely perfect for a bike race.
“There was a little bit of a head wind toward Cape Point, but for the bigger guys – like myself – it just slowed the very light climbers down into the Smitswinkel climb, which gave me a minute or two get the heart rate down… It was the type of wind that actually plays into your favour,” he said.
It was on Suikerbossie where ex Dutch pro Mark Vlijm soaked up the view and the atmosphere while waiting for his new wife to catch up. “I heard about the race from a friend. I checked it out and told him that once I’m finished as a pro I would come and ride it. Now I’m here on my honeymoon riding with my wife,” he said. “It’s the best organised bike tour I’ve ever done,” he said.
And, it was on Suikerbossie where rally driver Ashley Haigh-Smith realised that he was ready to tackle the Absa Cape Epic in a week’s time… by the time he cruised up there on his Trek mountain bike it was well past lunch time and had been a long day for Ashleigh. “I drove the Avis Lead car for the race,” he explained. “Gugu (Zulu) drove the commissaire – we have radios between the two cars and we pretty much have to make sure the road is clear. In the beginning it was pretty slow, but once we got past Misty Cliffs it got quite entertaining,” he says. “Then we both jumped on our mountain bikes and joined some friends for the ride.” What a ride it was for all out there today.
Events of this magnitude are not without incident, of course. Various medical matters were dealt with on the day, of which 20 cases were admitted to hospital and – as of 15:00 on the day – five were considered serious.