Tour continues to get wheels turning

GETTING WARMED UP: Cyclists prepare for a previous event with a  gruelling training ride along the seaside -
GETTING WARMED UP: Cyclists prepare for a previous event with a gruelling training ride along the seaside –

South Africa’s second oldest national classic, The Herald VW Cycle Tour, will continue to set the pace on Nelson Mandela’s annual sporting calendar when it turns 30 at the end of the month.

The Herald’s chief marketing officer, Justin Peel, said the newspaper was proud to have been a part of the event since its inception in 1986.

“It’s a great milestone to achieve 30 consecutive races and we have watched it grow into one of the finest races in South Africa.”

Peel said the cycle tour had made a significant contribution to the metro over the decades.

“As a top-tier event, it showcases our region from a tourism standpoint.

“It also allows locals the opportunity to race against the best in the country and therefore develops cycling in the region.”

Peel said the event, which is an official seeding event for the Cape Town Cycle Tour, had grown in response to the needs of the cycling community.

“There’s been a host of changes over the years to ensure that we keep improving. These include the focus on the weekend festival of cycling that saw the inclusion of the mountain bike events, kiddies’ races and shorter distances.”

The 109km race – the brainchild of Rob Rudman, Peter Dickason and Tony Lutz – saw a field of 360 roadies between the ages of nine and 74 depart from Kings Beach.

The original route, which has remained largely unchanged over the years, took riders on a scenic pedal through the coastal villages of Seaview and Schoenmakerskop and included the iconic Maitlands climb.

Port Elizabethans John Smith and Mandy Dean, one of the country’s leading female triathletes at the time, won the first edition.

By the third year, numbers grew to more than 1 000, with that figure doubling in time for the 10th edition. Last year more than 3 000 participants signed up across all events.

In 2006, mountain biking enthusiasts were accommodated with the launch of the off-road events in Longmore Forest, which were moved to Addo two years later.

The introduction of the Ultimate Quest in 2013 saw elite cyclists vying for the best overall result across both feature races – the 106km Classic road race and 80km Extreme mountain bike challenge.

Mountain bikers James Reid and Kandice Neethling have made this super-category their own for the past two years.

But the one name that dominates the record books is that of Port Elizabeth’s “queen of cycling” Anriette Schoeman.

Current champion Schoeman has notched up 13 victories, while former pro racer Nicholas White holds the men’s record with four race wins.

This year, riders are invited to ride any of the Saturday road races – the 10km Sprint or 21km Leisure Ride – on their vintage bicycles.

Anyone who enters with a bike that pre-dates 1995 could win a spot prize in the event.

Enter at before January 19.

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