The decision to cancel the Cape Town Cycle Tour on Sunday morning was taken to ensure the safety of participants‚ the race organisers said.
The race had to be called off due to what were described as extreme weather conditions‚ with winds gusting up to 100/km in parts.
This was after originally having been shortened from 109km to 78km due to damage to certain sections of the route and fears of expected protests along the route.
“This morning presented a number of challenges‚ not least of which were wind speeds considerably higher than predicted yesterday. This‚ combined with a large fire that broke out in Hout Bay in the early hours of this morning‚ and the added risk of protest action en route‚ were all contributing factors to the decision made in our Joint Operation Centre (JOC) by the VOC Commander to stop the event‚” the organisers said in a statement.
They added: “Our priority first and foremost will always be the safety of all our participants and the risk of injury and potential fatality at the start‚ at the finish and on Chapman’s Peak warranted this extremely difficult decision. Furthermore‚ we only made the decision after endeavouring to mitigate all risks to keep the event open.”
On Saturday the organisers said they had been advised of the possibility of severe winds and warned the 35‚000 riders to stay away if they were not comfortable riding in strong winds.
In 2009‚ the race was plagued by a gale-force southeasterly wind that played havoc with portable toilets‚ scaffolding‚ sponsors’ billboards and anything else that was not nailed down.
Helicopters were grounded‚ resulting in no live TV coverage. This year’s 109km circuit of the Cape peninsula marks the cycle tour’s 40th anniversary.
Tasleem Jackson‚ 34‚ of Strandfontein was on his way to the start of what would have been his fourth Cape Town Cycle Tour when it was cancelled.
“I was meant to start at 9.36am but I go through earlier and watch the others start‚” he said.
“[Cancelling] was the best decision considering the protests‚ the fire in Hout Bay and‚ add to that‚ the wind. If the pros can’t handle the wind‚ the amateurs have no chance.
“I’m a tiny bit disappointed because I’m not getting a medal. It’s the small‚ shiny‚ things‚” he joked.
Asked why he had gone to the venue even though there had been wind warnings‚ Jackson said: “I run and cycle just because I want to see what I can do. There will be another race‚ there always is.”
The organisers said they were “humbled” by the outpouring of offers to assist and donate food‚ product and resources to those in need as a result of the cycling event being stopped.
“We are in the process of co-ordinating efforts to ensure that goods reach those in need in the fire-affected areas in Hout Bay‚” they added.
“We encourage the public wishing to donate to please contact Thula Thula in Hout Bay to donate non-perishable goods. They Mayor of Hout Bay has opened the Hout Bay Sports Centre in readiness to receive perishable goods for immediate distribution into the community.”
– Additional reporting from HeraldLIVE