Bay cyclists in vicious attacks

THE cycling community was reeling from shock yesterday after two seasoned sportsmen were viciously stabbed and robbed of their bicycles on Saturday morning in Walmer. The shock attacks were carried out as cyclists and athletes train for The Herald VW Cycle Tour this weekend and Ironman SA in the Bay in April.

From his bed in St George's Hospital a weak Bruce Robertson, 67, said he considered himself "very lucky to be alive" as his attackers had missed his heart and lungs.

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He said they only chipped his vertebrae when they stabbed him in the back after they robbed him of his bicycle just after 6am on Saturday in Victoria Drive.

The self-employed former South African track champion was ahead of a bunch of about 40 cyclists who ride out towards Marine Drive every weekend.

He is sharing a hospital room with Kobus de Vos, 47, another former Springbok cyclist who was stabbed in the neck, face and hands at about 5am in Ninth Avenue. De Vos, whose cheekbone was damaged in the attack, was training alone and was lying in the road when a motorist spotted him.

De Vos's sister, Karen de Vos, said it was only by grace that his main arteries and spinal cord had not been damaged and that help had arrived almost immediately for her IT specialist brother.

"He had some bleeding on the brain but the doctors are satisfied that it is all under control now. As he was lying on the ground, the robbers continued to stab him in his hands. He lost a lot of blood but says he is going to take part in the Ironman," Karen said.

The attackers used the same modus operandi, jumping in front of the cyclists and stabbing them, but it is not yet clear whether the incidents can be linked. Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said no arrests had been made.

Both men's families have been inundated with calls from members of the cycling fraternity, especially the group of prominent cyclists who found a bleeding Robertson.

Linda le Roux and her husband, Martin, said Robertson was only about a minute ahead of them. "When we saw him without his bicycle, the blood was gushing out of his back. There were some doctors in the bunch who helped him, and we put pressure on the wound," she said.

Another cyclist, Atlas Security managing director Gary Schewitz, phoned his team, who responded, along with the police.

The ambulance paramedics took over with emergency assistance.

Former Port Elizabeth mayor and EP Cycling president Charles Garai, who was with the cycle group, said he was extremely concerned about the brazen attacks.

"It is shocking that runners and cyclists are not safe to go out in our city and enjoy outdoor exercise, and dare not go on their own any more."

Another prominent Port Elizabeth cyclist, Coetzee Gouws, said: "Port Elizabeth is a sporting city but it is being taken away little by little from us.

"Mountain bikers are also regularly being robbed of their bicycles in the Baakens Valley."