A blog covering life and happenings in Cape Town

Monday, March 14, 2005

Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour

The cycle tour is an annual event happening on the second Sunday in March.

It has grown from a small event way back in 1978 where about 500 people took part to 35000 entrants this year.

If Cape Town could cope with more riders numbers would be well over 40000 by now.

The organisation of this tour is enormous.

The route covering 108 kilometres stretches across the entire Cape Peninsula with the southern section of the route being quite remote from train and bus travel.

Traffic control is a major problem as the route blocks off all the access roads to the southern peninsula for most of the day.

People living in the Southern Peninsula are forced to stay at home or leave home before 5.00am in the morning.

The start of the race at Hertzog Boulevard is another nightmare to organise.

The race is arranged into blocks of entrants whose previous race times are used to stagger the start.

Each entrant is told in which group he/she will start and has to find his way to his group on arrival at the start.

With 35000 entrants with cycles, the start is congested.

With so many people in a race there are bound to be accidents so medical facilities have to be spread all around the Peninsula to be readily available if an accident occurs.

Accidents are a foregone conclusion as most of the 35000 riders are amateurs and are not used to riding in a crowd.

Any slight swerve will take out the front wheel of the rider behind and will cause a chain event of fallers.

Some serious accidents can happen when riders are moving at speed such as the downhill at Hospital Bend near Groote Schuur Hospital.

Cape Town is hot and windy at this time of the year so supplying refreshments for riders is a necessity.

Volunteers have to be found to man water points and to clean up after a group of riders has been through the point.

The Argus Cycle tour is one of the races in which each and every rider is timed.

It's a mammoth task to keep track of all these thousands of people so the problem has been solved by giving each rider a microchip which is attached to his/her race number and is recorded by a computer when the cyclists ride over mats along the course.

Yesterday (Saturday) when I visited the finish of the race the recording mats had not yet arrived and the electricians were starting to panic that things would not be ready for the race today (Sunday).

Not only do race organisers have to time the race, they also have to prepare the course.

In many areas spectators have to be held back and plastic fencing has to be put in place to do this.

In dangerous areas where there is a likelihood of an accident happening straw bales have to be put in place to soften the fall.

As with motor vehicles, brakes often fail on downhills and then the rider is unable to stop necessitating an emergency stop into a bale of straw.

The finish of the race is even more important than the start.

When riders complete the 108 kilometres many are dead tired and in bad shape.

Medical facilities need to be in place to assist the people in need of attention.

Bicycles are expensive items these days and special care has to be taken of them as well.

A rider in need of medical care is unable to attend to the safety of his bike so it is placed into storage until it can be collected by him.

The finish of any race is always popular with spectators so arrangements to cope with traffic and parking is necessary.

A tent town has been built near the Green Point Stadium for catering and looking after the many thousands of spectators who will come to the finish to fetch their loved ones.

Speaking to an electrician working in the tent town I was told that approximately 10 kilometres of overhead wire had been installed to provide power to all the tents and that on Monday morning all of the wiring would have to be dismantled again.

What a lot of work for just one day of action.

I have written more articles on the history of the race and the routes around the Peninsula which are used.

Read them here.

Turtle Essays ezine no 125

See you all soon!

Geoff Fairman


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