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History of Cape Town Cycle Tour

It all began with a leisurely breakfast in 1977. The breakfastees – engineer Bill Mylrea and architect John Stegmann – can even remember what the breakfast cost: a princely R1. The subject was cycling, cycling safety for the small number of recreational cyclists who travelled the roads of the Western Cape, and mobility for the masses.

What Cape Town needed as it expanded apace, more than anything else, was a network of safe and efficient cycle paths that would keep riders safe and allow commuters to get to and from work swiftly and in one piece. After many years of submitting, pleading, begging and cajoling, these efforts were getting nowhere, mainly thanks to government’s lack of will, and partly because of lack of kickbacks. Not even a 3 000-signature petition could persuade the Department of Transport to just look into the possibilities. It became clear that the established cyclists needed to revolt. And so they did. Mylrea and Stegmann created The Big Ride In.

Held under the auspices of the newly formed Western Province Pedal Power Association (now called PPA) in 1977, it set out to demonstrate that, actually, a lot of people rode bikes. And so they did, with hundreds riding into the Cape Town CBD, to the City Hall, the Grand Parade, Adderley Street and the Foreshore. Included in their number was the mayor, John Tyers. And it was impressive, to all but the relevant authority, which still saw no future for bike paths. From this hugely unsuccessful success was born the Peninsula Marathon – a gruelling event that would, according to the experts at the WPPPA ‘require at least two months’ preparation’. They even went as far as recommending: ‘Unless you are able to spend R300–R500 on a super machine, your best bet is a ten-speed tourer (with drop handlebars, if you like) for around R100 new, or R50–R75 second-hand.’ The Peninsula Marathon never saw the light of day, as an event. In late 1978 legendary Cape Town mountain biker and potter Steve Shapiro harangued the marketing folk at The Argus (where he was working at the time) to get involved.

It was to be a mass-participation event open to all who wanted to enter. That second bit was important: this was a trying time for forward-thinking sports administrators, and actually for forward-thinking humans. From the outset, the organising committee wanted the Cycle Tour to be an official, sanctioned event, but no matter how much the Department of Sport loved the idea and wanted a part of it, their proviso that it only be open to white participants remained a stumbling block, to the degree that Mylrea was forced to write the department’s representative an extremely polite letter in the build-up to the event, telling him that this was a non-segregated event. This was brave stuff in the late 1970s, when BJ Vorster and PW Botha were ruling the roost. But the spirit of cycling, and its inclusivity, prevailed, and on 28 October 1978 over 500 cyclists left the start line outside the Castle in Strand Street.

The route we know and love today almost didn’t happen, on a number of levels. Initially, a number of options were looked at – northwards to Melkbos and back; out to Paarl for a 250–300km return trip; at one point it was even going to be a two-dayer – before the founding fathers settled on a start as close to the City Hall as they dared, before heading south along the newly built Blue Route freeway and on down to Simon’s Town. From there, the initial plan was to head into the Cape Point Nature Reserve, turn around at the farthest point, and for the riders to return whence they came.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if the thought of 35,000 riders negotiating that narrow reserve road in two directions is too scary), the managers of the park, SANParks in today’s parlance, threw their toys out of the cot, and rather than kowtow to yet another quasi-government department, the organisers decided to bypass the entrance to the reserve and head through Misty Cliffs, over Slangkop and then Chapman’s Peak and Suikerbossie, before finishing at the lamp-post opposite what is now The Bay Hotel (it was called the Rotunda in 1978), where a pair of tables welcomed finishers.

The plan was to start with a bang – the SADF was persuaded to ‘fire’ a cannon from one of the Castle ramparts; in reality, they agreed to put a thunderflash in what looked like a cannon. At 07:00, precisely nothing happened, as those entrusted with our national safety failed completely to ignite the glorified firework, housed in a cannonesque steel pipe that was also packed with flour to simulate smoke. After some muttering, a second attempt was made, with disastrous effect as the entire contraption blew up. Thankfully nobody was hurt, and the first batch of riders – the non-registered – got under way.

From its infancy, the Cycle Tour set standards in world cycling, and world sport. This was to be the first time that the average Joes would race the same course at the same time as the officially sanctioned racing cyclists. The world and national governing bodies were, and still are, dead set against this happening, for any number of nonsensical reasons, but the organisers were determined to have a celebration of cycling for all cyclists, so the split-group arrangement was instituted to great effect. The event would separate the two well into the 1990s, and the federations are still, regularly, threating ‘their’ riders with dire consequences if they ride this unsanctioned monster, 41 years later. Thankfully, sense prevails each time, unmentionables are unknotted and the biggest timed bike race in the world marches on.

Here are some training tips:

100 KM Training Programme

Here is a simple 100km training programme, whether you want to better your personal best or out sprint your buddies, here’s how to prepare for the Cape Town Cycle Tour

On Sunday 11 March 2018, some 35 000 cyclists of all ages, shapes and fitness levels will line up for the Cape Town Cycle Tour. The Cycle Tour is affectionately known as ‘the world’s biggest fun ride,’ but make no mistake about it, physically it’s still a very genuine challenge and whether you have aspirations of joining the exclusive sub-three-hour club or just want to beat the guy in the Garfield suit, here are some top tips to get you through those 109-kilometres around the Cape Peninsula.

Hill repeats

“Include a session with four to six hills between one kilometre and three kilometres long once a week into your training regime,” says cycling Coach Barry Austin, who’s mentored the likes of John-Lee Augustyn, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Louis Meintjes to pro-stardom. “Ride at the maximum effort you can maintain up the hill without seeing the sun disappear under the mushroom cloud caused by your exploding legs,” he says. You know that effort level just before the wheezy breathing. Complete rest between each hill interval.

Slacker (the guy who still has last year’s Cycle Tour number sticker on his bike): do this sometime, somewhere before the race, just to check your bike is working.

Newbie (first Cape Town Cycle Tour): Once a week.

Social rider (looking to finish in a time of between four and five hours): Once a week.

Sub 3 racing snake (serious cyclist with at least 6 weeks of base miles in the legs and on a periodised training programme): Once a week.

Long steady rides

Also called ‘endurance miles’ or LSD’s (long slow distance). “Choose undulating terrain and ride at a pace that you can hold a conversation,” says Austin, explaining that you should only have to compose yourself every few mins by taking a deeper breath. Slowly build up the hours over the next 12 weeks toward race day.

Slacker Recommended to do a few times if at least to only test your backside ‘fitness’ and catch some rays.

Newbie Build up to a 3-4 hour ride at least once a month.

Social rider 3-4 hour rides once a week.

Sub 3 racing snake 3-4 hour rides twice a week.

Make sure to reward yourself with an easier week every three to four weeks by doing up to 60% less than the normal training weeks.

TIP

Fuel your body in training and in racing. There is no use building a V8 engine and fueling it with air.

Pyramid Intervals

Austin says these are also known as ‘I hate you, but love what you do for me’ intervals. Here’s how:

  • Warm up for 30 minutes at a moderate pace.
  • Ride flat-out for 1 minute. 
  • Recover at an easy pace for 1 minute
  • Ride flat-out for 2 minutes. 
  • Recover at an easy pace for 2 minutes
  • Ride flat-out for 3 minutes. 
  • Recover at an easy pace for 3 minutes
  • Ride flat-out for 4 minutes. 
  • Recover at an easy pace for 4 minutes
  • Ride flat-out for 5 minutes. 
  • Recover at an easy pace for 5 minutes
  • Repeat back down from 4 to 1 and then recover at an easy pace for 15-30 minutes.

Slacker Avoid. Period. It hurts.

Newbie Avoid like the plague until you really feel up to it or feel you are progressing fast.

Social You can take a stab at it if you feel the need to hate yourself a bit, but only if already well into a proper training regime.

Sub 3 racing snake Include once a week in the last few weeks before the big one.

Essential skills

“Learn to ride in a group,” says Austin. “You can save between up to 30% energy by riding effectively in a group.”  According to Austin, that equates to shaving some between 15 and 30 minutes off of your Cape Town Cycle Tour time.  “Without becoming any fitter,” he says. He recommends focusing on the upper body and head of the rider in front of you, and to avoid staring at their back wheel. The best way to learn to do this is join local club rides or to enter smaller races in the lead up to the event.

Just remember, if you are going to hide in the bunch and not take turns pulling on the front, it’s not cool to sprint over the finish line. Besides – it’s the fun ride champs, right?

Source credit: www.capetowncycletour.com

Images: Pixabay