The Stalwart - Cape Town Cycle Tour

The Stalwart

3 Mar 2023 - Press Release

When Gareth Holmes lined up for the inaugural Argus Cycle Tour on a balmy day in October, 1978, few (if any) of his fellow 525 starters would have dreamed this 104km fun ride was the embryo of something vastly bigger.

“I remember it clearly – I was riding a Peugeot Sting, and I wore a white hat – I don’t think anyone wore helmets in those early years.” Holmes would go on to finish in five hours, exactly, better than half way up the field of 446 finishers.

Fast forward 45 years, and Gareth Holmes is one of the unsung heroes of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. As the event has exploded in popularity, with tens of thousands of super-keen riders racing each other for bragging rights over a few iterations of the quintessential round-the peninsula route, he has entered and finished every year, with little fanfare even in the heady days of the late 20-teens and the Magnificent 7 – a group of seven riders who kept coming back for more each year as finishers of every event.

That number has dropped to two as age and illness have taken their toll: Holmes is now 65, and his fellow every-timer Stephen Stefano is a mere 59. 2023 will be their 45th start (and finish), an incredible record when you take into account everything that can go wrong on the day, with mechanicals, bad luck, crashes and illness. “My worst year was the 2021 Cycle Tour, the one we did in October after Covid. My dad had passed away, and I was unfit. Covid 19 had a terrible effect on all of us, all I could manage was a 4:49, even in the good conditions.”

One of the challenges Holmes faces is that the Cycle Tour is a visual spectacular, but is run off in a world of silence. “I take my hearing aids out on the day, because they get sweaty and I don’t want to damage them.” His approach has always been measured – which may be the reason for such longevity. “I am very careful and I ride very well, and this year I am good and fit and physically ready. And with the new bike, maybe it will be even better!”

Holmes has always entered and ridden on the simplest of bikes; just racy enough to allow him an impressive 3:05 personal best, but never flash or fancy. He is ever-humble about his achievements, and the last person to worry about whether he has the latest and greatest machinery. The bicycle is a tool, if it does its job, it is perfect.

That said, his current steed was becoming exceptionally long in the tooth. “When David Bellairs told us about Gareth’s bike, and how it was possibly reaching a stage where reliability could put an end to his astonishing run at the Cape Town Cycle Tour, we felt compelled to help,” says Andrew Cattell from the local importers of the global Giant brand. “We want Gareth as an ambassador on our Contend platform, which is designed for the enthusiast cyclist who wants the super-reliability of knowing he can finish what he has started, without having to worry about super-expensive or complicated componentry.”

And so, Gareth Holmes will be tackling the 45th Anniversary Cape Town Cycle Tour aboard a sparkly-new Giant Contend 3, and continuing his record-setting run in the event representing Giant. In case you haven’t met him, it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

If you are riding in 3C, and you spot a guy with one of the gold Loyalty Club Jerseys (there are only 22 of them), emblazoned with the number 40, that will be Gareth Holmes. Pat him on the shoulder, shake his hand and look after him, he is Cape Town Cycle Tour royalty.

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