A perfect day for cycling brought a smile to most faces and grimaces from a few others who suffered from cramps, as thousands of people converged at Pollok Beach for The Herald Continental Cycle Tour yesterday.
The excellent weather, fun atmosphere and even a racing ice-cream vendor all came together to make one of Port Elizabeth’s premier annual cycling events memorable.
However, the race was marred by a crash near the finish line that left at least five people injured and saw one of the city’s rising cycling stars taken to hospital.
Former African Continental champion Monique Gerber, 20, suffered a concussion and destroyed her R90 000 bicycle when she collided with another cyclist in the home stretch of the 106km event.
According to her father and coach Frans Gerber, Monique was hot on the heels of eventual race winner Anriette Schoeman when she hit a cyclist taking part in the 55km event.
“Monique was sprinting to the finish behind one of the male cyclists, planning to shoot past him and go head to head with Anriette for a possible win,” Gerber said.
“They were cutting past one of the 55km groups when the accident happened.
“The man in front of her swerved to avoid a slower cyclist ahead of him, but Monique did not have enough time to react.”
She went down, shattering her helmet, and other cyclists, who had little time to react, rode over her.
“She’s had multiple X-rays at the hospital and, luckily, she did not break any bones,” Gerber said.
“However, she will not be able to take part in next month’s Cape Town Cycle Tour.”
He said similar incidents had happened at cycling events all over the country, where riders from slower events came to the finish at the same time as the main race front-runners.
“They start at different times but finish together,” Gerber said.
“Why can’t they have two separate lanes to keep the finishers apart? That would help to avoid incidents like this.”
The Herald marketing head Justin Peel said they were still waiting for an update on all the injured cyclists.
“This was an unfortunate accident,” he said.
“We hope no one was too badly hurt.”
Nolan Hoffman (Team BCX) won the men’s 106km main event in a time of 2min 30min 40sec, while Schoeman (Africa Silks) was the first woman over the line, finishing in 3:00:46.
The accident failed to dampen the mood of the scores of other cyclists who, with their families and supporters, continued to make the most of the conditions after the race.
Ice-cream vendor Wesley Simakuhle, 28, received much praise from fellow cyclists after finishing the 55km event on his red three-wheel bicycle, complete with cooler-box on the back.
This was his third time taking part in the event and he said he was already looking forward to next year.
“This year I was nervous,” Simakuhle said.
“I showed up at the start and saw my front wheel was flat, but I was determined to ride.
“Near the end, I started to cramp up so I did not even look at my finishing time.
“But next year I will come back stronger.”
Mark Morris, 58, and his wife, Jacqui, 54, used yesterday’s event as training for the Cape Town Cycle Tour on March 12.
He said the conditions were good preparation for the Cape Town event.
“We had some wind from the front but, luckily, that cooled things down,” Morris said.
“It was tough but it was great for us to do it together and get ready for Cape Town.”
Jacqui, taking part in her first 106km event, is relatively new to cycling.