02 Mar, 2017

Happy 40th, Cycle Tour!


With some 35,000 avid cyclists looking to conquer the 109km route around the Cape Peninsula on Sunday 12 March, the 40th Cape Town Cycle Tour looks set to be another classic in a long history of wonderful riding in the Mother City. – BY KYLE DEELEY

In 1977, Bill Mylrea and John Stegmann organised the Big Ride-In to draw attention to the need for cycle paths in South Africa. The cyclists met on the Grand Parade and rode down Adderley Street to the Foreshore. The race was originally planned to run over a much longer 140km route, but was reduced to a shorter 104km route when permission to enter the Cape Point Nature Reserve was refused. The ride proved most popular, so the following year it was put on again, this time with Cape Town’s largest daily newspaper, the Cape Argus, coming on board as sponsor. That saw 525 riders set off on 28 October 1978, 446 of whom finished. The winner was Lawrence Whittaker in a time of 3:02:25, while Janice Theis was first woman home in a time of 4:35:00.

The race has now officially taken place 39 times, and all who have ridden it will have that one ride that stands out from the rest for a specific reason. So too, do Neil Bramwell and Olga Basson. Neil has ridden all 39 Cape Town Cycle Tour events, while Olga leads the women’s all-time list with 34 finishes to her name, and when asked what keeps them coming back, they say it is all about the spirit of the event.

“Looking back through my Cycle Tour memories, my certificate from 1989 must be my most memorable and proudest,” says Neil. “My time for that ride was 2:50:38, and for a good part of the ride I found myself riding with some of the big names in cycle racing. Ertjies Bezuidenhout was close behind me for a while, but pulled away from me on Chapman’s Peak. I was very happy with my time and my position of 100th overall.”

Olga also says that the Tour has brought a lot of memories and she’s seen it all, including the storms of 1987 and the heat of 2002, when the race was stopped. “I guess my most memorable year has to be 2015, when the race was shortened due to the fire. It was a fantastic ride, the atmosphere was amazing and it felt great riding for a cause. I also got a medal for being first in my age group,” she says.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour event now actually consists of five cycling events, taking place over a period of a week and culminating in the Cycle Tour itself. The other events include the Tricycle Tour, aimed at youngsters less than six years old, followed by the Junior Cycle Tour, aimed at kids between six and 12 years of age. The rest of the week then focuses on the older riders, with the Cycle Tour Mountain Bike race and the Giro del Capo, a five-day professional stage race, the last day of which is ridden as part of the Cycle Tour itself.

In recent years, the race has usually followed a scenic 109km circular route from Cape Town down the Eastern side of the Cape Peninsula and back up along the Western side. The start is in Hertzog Boulevard in the city centre, at the Cape Town Civic Centre, and the route then follows a short section of the N2 before taking the M3 and Main Road south to Muizenburg, Simon’s Town and Smitswinkel Bay. Next the route crosses the Peninsula, passing the entrance to the Cape Point Nature Reserve, and heads north through Kommetjie, Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay before going over the notorious Suikerbossie Hill to Camps Bay and ending next to the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point. That makes it without doubt one of the most scenic bike races in the world!

• The Cape Town Cycle Tour has grown from 525 cyclists to a massive 35,000 cyclists, making it South Africa’s largest individually timed cycling race, and for many people the highlight of the year’s road cycling calendar.
• The youngest cyclist to complete the Cape Town Cycle Tour was Bradley Pickering Dunn, who completed the race on the back of his dad’s tandem in 1988 at the age of four!
• The oldest cyclist to complete the race is Japie Malan, who finished in 2012, aged 92, on a tandem! He was also the oldest first-time rider when he made his Cycle Tour debut in 2004, aged 84. The oldest woman to complete the race is Mary Warner, who finished the 2006 Cycle Tour at the age of 80

Kyle Deeley

Kyle Deeley

Editorial Assistant |