South Africa’s Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, the world’s largest individually timed cycle race – and the first event outside Europe to be included in the International Cycling Union’s Golden Bike Series – sees over 35 000 cyclists tackling a 109km route around Cape Town that is as spectacular as it is gruelling.
Traditionally staged on the second Sunday of March, the country’s biggest one- day sporting event is fast becoming a major international drawcard – foreign entries topped 2 000 in 2006 – and increasingly a boon for business and tourism in the Western Cape.
Events preceding the Cycle Tour, which make up Lifecycle Week, include the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Mountain Bike Challenge, Tricycle Junior Cycle Tours, and the Cycle Tour Expo, South Africa’s largest cycling, health and fitness exhibition.
Charities have also become big winners at the Cycle Tour. In 2007, over R3- million was donated to the race’s two official charities, the Pedal Power Association and the Rotary Club of Claremont in Cape Town.
The idea for the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour can be traced back to 1978, when Bill Mylrea and John Stegmann organised the Big Ride-In to draw attention to the need for cycle paths. The Ride-In, held under the auspices of the Western Province Pedal Power Association, was well received and drew hundreds of cyclists, including the Mayor of Cape Town.
From this event the idea was planted that a long-distance race should take place and be known as the Peninsula Marathon. Before the race was run for the first time, the name was changed: the Cape Argus newspaper stepped in to sponsor the race, and thus the Argus Cycle Tour was born.
Five hundred and twenty-five starters lined up for the start of the 1978 race, and 446 cyclists made it across the finishing line as Lawrence Whittaker won the event in a shade over three hours, edging out W van der Merwe by one second for the victory.
Janice Theis became the first women’s winner, finishing in a time of 4:35:00. J and R Stegmann were the winners of the tandems, while 65-year-old JO Clough was the oldest finisher in a time of 6:25:00. It is interesting to note that a top-class bicycle at that time cost between R300 and R500!
At the request of Captour, the date for the 1979 Argus Cycle Tour was changed to coincide with the Cape Town festival, and the number of entrants almost doubled as 999 competitors set off on the 105-kilometre route. 239 failed to make it to the finish line.
Hans Degenaar improved the men’s record by three seconds short of 10 minutes, in a time of 2:52:28, while Janice Theis again won the women’s event, bettering her winning time of the previous year by a staggering 58 minutes and 14 seconds as she lowered her record to 3:36:46. J Kennedy became the oldest competitor in the two- year history of the race when, at 74 years of age, he crossed the finish line in 5:19:45, while J and R Stegmann repeated as winners in the tandem category.
Having missed the 1 000 mark by a single rider in 1979, the Argus topped that milestone in 1980, with 1 398 cyclists entering the race. It was also the first year that over 1 000 people finished, with 1 119 completing the picturesque route.
Springbok cyclist Hennie Wentzel won in 3:02:18, edging out J Whittaker by a single second for the win. MG Gasson secured the women’s victory, while 67-year- old JO Clough was once more the oldest competitor. J and R Stegmann completed a hat trick of wins on their tandem.
To counteract congestion at the on-ramp to the Eastern Boulevard, the start of the 1981 race was moved to Hertzog Boulevard, where it has remained to the present day.
Ertjies Bezuidenhout set a new record winning time of 2:47:42, while the women’s record remained intact as A Wood triumphed in 3:40:01, over three minutes off Janice Theis’ 1979 time. Seventy-four-year-old A Wilson was the oldest finisher in an impressive 4:52:00, while there were new winners in the tandem category as F and A du Toit succeeded the victors of the previous three competitions J and R Stegmann.
Due to the large number of competitors the race was attracting, the Western Province Pedal Power Association reached an agreement with the Rotary Club of Claremont that saw Rotary taking on the organisation of the race, which it used to help it raise funds for community projects. This remained the arrangement until 2000, when the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust was formed.
Ironically, for the first time in 1982 there was no significant increase in the number of entrants as the field increased from 1 669 competitors in 1981 to 1698 competitors in 1982. There were actually 25 less finishers than the previous year.
In a shock result, the unregistered Mark Pinder took the line honours, although his winning time rose above three hours. M le Roux broke the women’s record despite less than perfect conditions, while T Clayton, aged 71, was the oldest male finisher and E Gouws, aged 67, the oldest female finisher. F du Toit and W Smith secured victory in the tandems.
There was a major increase of about 600 cyclists for the 1983 event, and there was also an interesting result as the tandem team of F du Toit and W Smith were first across the line in 2:41:46, the fastest time yet for the Argus.
Robbie McIntosh was the first individual cyclist across the finishing line in a touch under 2:50. H Smithers clipped over 13 minutes off the women’s record with her time of 3:21:20, while A Wilson became the oldest finisher in the history of the race at the age of 76. His time was a very respectable 4:40:24.
The number of entries once again failed to climb much in 1984, with only 71 more cyclists taking part than the previous year. For the first time, however, there were more than 2 000 finishers as Lloyd Wright took the win in 2:43:51, followed across the line by the previous year’s winners, F du Toit and W Smith.
Isavel Roche-Kelly provided another new women’s record with a time of 3:19:14. A Wilson, at age 77, returned again to add another year to his record as the oldest finisher. With 85% of starters finishing the race, it was the highest percentage of finishers in the history of the race.
In 1985 the entry topped 3 000, and almost 2 500 starters made it to the finish. Tandems reigned supreme as Alistair MacDonald and J Heard recorded the fastest winning time yet of 2:43:12, with Hennie Wentzel the first individual finisher over a minute back.
Louise van Riet Lowe was the first woman across the finish line in a time just two minutes slower than the overall winning time in the first tour. A Wilson returned to up his record as the oldest cyclist to complete the race to 78 years of age.
Ertjies Bezuidenhout secured his second Argus victory in 1986, five years after his first success in the event. His winning time of 2:40:20 improved on the record set by F du Toit and W Smith by over a minute.
There was a significant improvement in the women’s race as Cathy Carstens became the first lady to break the three-hour mark, clocking a superb 2:49:00. The Argus would hear much more from her over the next number of years. Seventy- eight-year old M Symington equalled A Wilson’s record as oldest finisher, and for the first time there were over 3 000 finishers.
Entries surged by almost 2 500 for the 1987 Argus as the field increased to a sizeable 5 934 for the 10th anniversary of the race. Conditions were, however, not nearly as favourable as the previous year, and this led to fewer cyclists completing the course in under 03:30, despite the massive increase in numbers.
Hennie Wentzel took the win in 2:43:05, while Cathy Carstens, the women’s winner in 2:49:00 the previous year, could manage “only” 03:03:24 this time around. A Wilson became the first octogenarian to complete the race, something he managed in the superb time of 3:51:34!
If 1987’s rise in entries by 2 500 to almost 6 000 was impressive, then 1988’s rise to almost 11 000 was spectacular. For the second time, Lloyd Wright, on an unconventional cycle, won the event in 2:33:03. So unexpected was his win and time that M-Net, on board as a sponsor for the first time, had to ask him to cross the finishing line for a second time!
Willie Engelbrecht was the fastest conventional finisher, almost four minutes slower than Wright, while Cathy Carstens again dipped under three hours to win the women’s race.
Once more there was a solid increase in the size of the field and a noteworthy milestone was achieved as over 10 000 cyclists completed the event for the first time in 1989. Due to overcrowding, the finish was moved from the Main Road at Camps Bay to Maiden Cove, thus lengthening the race by a kilometre.
Lloyd Wright again proved too strong on his unconventional bicycle, finishing the course in 2:37:35. Willie Engelbrecht, almost 12 minutes behind Wright, was the first conventional finisher. Cathy Carstens notched her three-peat in the women’s event, while M Symington, at age 81, became the oldest finisher in the 12-year history of the Argus.
Lloyd Wright was back at it again in 1990, upstaging the conventional cyclists with his unconventional cycle, as he clocked a time of 2:40:29. Willie Engelbrecht closed the gap on Wright, but still could not catch him as he needed a minute-and- a-half more to complete the race.
Cathy Carstens continued her domination of the women’s event, again finishing in under three hours. My Symington returned to up his age record by a year to 82, while for the first time there were over 2 000 finishers in under the benchmark 03:30.
In 1991 the 15 000-entry mark was passed as Pick ‘n Pay became a naming rights sponsor, resulting in the event becoming “The Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour”. Robbie McIntosh set a new standard as he turned in a time of 2:28:46 for a superb victory.
In the women’s race there was a changing of the guard as Rene Scott, a Springbok triathlete, bettered Cathy Carsten’s record set in 1986 by almost five minutes to 2:44:04.
The Giro del Capo, a four-stage race for professional and leading registered riders, was introduced in 1992, ultimately resulting in the introduction of many top riders to the Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour.
Tough conditions made the 1992 race a very difficult event. 3 940 starters out of the field of 17 274 failed to finish. The tandem team of Richard Chesterton and Chris van Zyl recorded the fastest time of 02:49:02, nearly five minutes slower than the winning time of 1991 women’s winner Rene Scott. Steven Wolhuter was the first conventional finisher in a time of 2:50:43.
Wimpie van der Merwe, riding a recumbent in ideal weather conditions, set the fastest time in the history of the race in 1993, recording a blistering 2:16:40. His time was an incredible 14 minutes and 17 seconds ahead of runner-up David George.
Kim Carter triumphed in the women’s event, while I Buratovich and K Gaynor took the tandem honours in 02:45:14. S Smit, aged 80, was the oldest finisher.
1994 was a significant year as the entry for the Argus topped 20 000, with 400 of those coming from beyond South Africa’s borders.
Willie Engelbrecht claimed a long-awaited win in a good time of 2:23:22, while J Martin topped the women’s race with a time of 2:49:19. The combination of A de Kock and H Botes lifted the top tandem title. The Giro, meanwhile, attracted 70 foreign riders.
The next big milestone to fall to the Argus came about in 1995 as the field increased to over 25 000. Over 20 000 cyclists managed to finish. Swede Mikael Anderson took the line honours in a hasty 2:22:56, while J Martin repeated as women’s champion in just over two-and-a-quarter hours.
S Smit, aged 82, equalled M Symington’s record as the oldest finisher, while O Stielau and T Roolvink won the tandem race. Lloyd Wright finished in exactly two- and-a-half hours on his unconventional cycle.
The Cape weather played up again in 1996 as Tomas Liese won the Argus in 2:40:16, over 17 minutes off Mikael Anderson’s winning time of the year before. Erica Green grabbed the women’s title in a shade under three hours as 6 417 riders failed to make it to the finish.
B Warner was the oldest finisher at age 82, while A McKenzie lifted the women’s record to 70 years of age. The Dutch pairing of Henry Brokers and his blind partner, Olympian Jan Mulder, won the tandem event. Included in the list of entrants was five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx.
Over 30 000 people entered the 1997 Argus. In a tight sprint finish, Kurt Arvesan edged out top South African Robbie Hunter for the victory as both riders clocked 2:38:47.
Erica Green retained her women’s title, needing just four seconds more than her winning time in 1996. B Warner upped the age record to 83 years, while M Warner upped the women’s record to 71 years. H Wentzel and M Weedall won the tandems in 2:48:01.
Entries topped out at 34 162 in 1998. Malcolm Lange nailed down a South African victory, outsprinting Neil MacDonald for the win in a time of 2:39:52. Anke Erlank took over as the women’s winner, with 1993 champion Kim Carter finishing second.
Eighty-four-year-old B Warner returned for another year at age 84, while M Warner, age 72, improved on the women’s age record. H Wentzel and M Weedall repeated as tandem champions.
In 1999 transponders were used for the first time to monitor the cyclists and provide accurate finishing times. The title stayed in South African hands as Jacques Fullard grabbed the winner’s glory in a sprint finish.
M Lombardi claimed the women’s title in 2:52:55. M Warner improved the female age record to 73 years and S Richardson and Moolman Welgemoed won the tandem section in 2:40:40.
The world’s largest individually timed cycle race attracted almost 40 000 starters in 2000. Due to dangerous rock falls on Chapman’s Peak, the decision was taken to change the race route, resulting in a 109-kilometre race.
Morne Bester was the surprise victor in the men’s race, clocking 2:39:35, while Anriette Schoeman annexed the ladies’ title in 2:57:34. M Warner, at age 74, returned to improve her women’s age record, and S Richardson and M Welgemoed once again were the first tandem team across the finish line.
In 2001 the magical 40 000 mark was eclipsed by 15 cyclists as the Argus continued to grow in popularity, and many cyclists had to be turned away. A huge honour was accorded the event, as it became part of the UCI (International Cycling Union) Golden Bike Series, raising its international profile even more. It was the first time a race outside of Europe had been included on the Golden Bike Calendar.
Douglas Ryder snatched the men’s victory on the finish line with a well-timed sprint, securing the win in 2:31:57. Anriette Scoeman repeated as the top lady, while Hennie Wentzel and M Weedall returned to winning ways in the tandems. Lloyd Wright for the umpteenth time won the unconventional category.
Dangerous weather conditions led to the Tour being stopped for the first time in its history in 2002. Temperatures rising to 28 degrees had been predicted, but these surged to as much as 42 degrees in some parts. With heat stroke, dehydration and other heat-related injuries affecting cyclists, the medical team recommended stopping the Tour at Ou Kaapse Weg just before three in the afternoon.
Nonetheless, 28 440 cyclists still made it across the finish line in Green Point. Australian rider Allan Davis of Mapei Quickstep claimed the men’s win ahead of German rider Martin Muller in second place and South Africa’s David George in third. Anriette Schoeman claimed her third successive women’s title, while Jonathan Brittan and Bill Moore topped the tandem finishers.
Conditions were much more forgiving in 2003, leading to record setting times by the winners of both the men’s and women’s races. Malcolm Lange, whose sprinting talents have taken him over the 300-victory total, claimed the men’s race in 2:29:59, while Anriette Schoeman proved that she remained queen of the event with a fourth win in succession in 2:54:02.
The contestants in 2004 included five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain and two-time winner of the Tour de France Laurent Fignon. 2004 also featured a return to the traditional route along Chapman’s Peak that had last been raced in 2000.
Victory in the men’s race went to Italian sprinter Antonio Salomone, who managed to win despite suffering a puncture five kilometres from the finish; quick work from his Barloworld teammate, David George, saved the day. The women’s title went to Anke Erlank, who ended Anriette Schoeman’s four-on-the-trot winning streak in the race.
2004 also marked a return for the route over Chapman’s Park and it was heartily welcomed by the Argus competitors. Online entries opened and closed within 65 online hours!
In 2005, the Argus introduced a two-stage entry system whereby applicants who met certain criteria were guaranteed entry. A medal was also introduced for cyclists who completed both the 55km mountain bike challenge the week before the Cycle Tour and then the tour itself.
The Hand Cycle Race, with R20 000 prize money up for grabs, was introduced. South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, the Laureus Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability for 2006, took victory in three hours, 21 minutes and 10 seconds.
Russell Downing won the men’s race in 2:37:50, while Anke Erlank claimed the women’s title in 3:00:19.
Foreign entries topped 2 000 for the first time ever.
Favourable weather conditions in 2006 led to faster times by an average of 10 minutes. Stefan Rodochla won the men’s race in 2:34:28, Anriette Schoeman took the women’s honours in 2:59:08 and Ernst van Dyk successfully defended his hand cycle crown.
Japie Malan (86) was the oldest male finisher and Mary Warner (80) the oldest female finisher.
The 30th anniversary of the Cycle Tour saw the honouring of seven cyclists – Neil Bramwell, Louis de Waal, Steph du Toit, Gareth Holmes, Stephen Stefano, Alex Stewart and Neville Yeo – who had taken part in every edition of the race.
Team Barloworld’s star sprinter Robert Hunter, who went on to become the first South African to win a stage of the Tour de France later in the year, provided a home victory in the men’s race. Anke Erlank, meanwhile, beat her record in the women’s race, winning in a time of 2:48:29.
The race incluced three Tour de France greats, namely Greg LeMond, Jan Ullrich and Steven Rooks. Japie Malan (87) added another year to his record as the oldest finisher ever.
Excellent weather conditions in 2008 resulted in an extremely fast race. Pre-race favourites, Team Barloworld, lived up to their billing as Felix Cardenas and Chris Froome set Robbie Hunter for a successful defence of the title he had won the previous year.
His winning time was two hours, 27 minutes and 30 seconds, a new record by more than five minutes over the previous mark he had set in his 2007 victory.
MTN Energade’s Cherise Taylor became the youngest ever winner of the women’s race at just 18 years of age. Lynette Burger of Cyclelab Toyota followed her across the finish line, with five-time champion Anriette Schoeman in third.
Windy conditions that David Bellairs, co-director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, said made the race the toughest in 20 years, greeted participants in the 2009 race.
Robbie Hunter’s attempt to win a third Argus Cycle Tour in succession came up short as Medscheme’s Aaron Brown scored an upset victory. Nolan Hoffman finished in third place.
Victory in the women’s race went to Jennie Stenerhag of the Swedish National Team in a time of three hours, six minutes, and one second. Five-time winner Anriette Schoeman of Nashua finished second, with MTN’s Marissa van der Merwe in third. Defending champion Cherise Taylor had to settle for fifth.
The 2010 Cycle Tour attracted the world’s most famous cyclist Lance Armstrong, who took part in the event with his Team RadioShack team-mate, South African Daryl Impey.
The seven-time Tour de France winner didn’t capture the Cycle Tour victory, however, as Malcolm Lange of Team Medscheme won his 407th race and his third Cycle Tour title. He was followed across the finishing line by SA road race champion Christoff van Heerden and Impey.
Anriette Schoeman won the women’s race for a record sixth time. Previously she and Willie Engelbrecht had each achieved five victories. Robyn de Groot placed second and British rider Catherine Williamson third.
In 2011, Team Bonitas Medscheme claimed a one-two in the men’s race as Tyler Day captured the honours in a sprint finish ahead of his team-mate and defending champion, Malcolm Lange, who was competing in the final race of his professional career. Third went to Herman Fouche of DCM.
Day’s victory was the third by Bonitas Medscheme in as many years and it came in a record time for the 110km course of .
Cherise Taylor of Team USN lifted the women’s crown for the second time, also in a record time of 2:49:45. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of Nashua Toyota finished second and Catherine Williamson of Team BizHub third.
After a tight contest in 2012, MTN Qhubeka’s Reinhardt Jane van Rensburg sprinted to victory, ahead of Herman Fouche of Bonitas and Team Nu Water/CTM’s Jaco Venter. His winning time was 2:36:17.
There was drama in the women’s race when a fall near the end taking down more than 20 of the leading riders.
Momentum Toyota’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio avoided the carnage to claim victory. BizHub’s Catharine Williamson improved upon her third place a year earlier by one place, while Lynette Burdger of the Cycle Lab Toyota Academy team finished third.
Team Bonitas star Herman Fouche edged out 2011 champion Tyler Day of Team Westvall-BMC in a sprint for the men’s victory in 2013, with Christoff van Heerden finishing third to give Bonitas two men on the podium.
A crash near the finish of the women’s race saw the end of British road champion Sharon Laws’ challenge and also took defending champion Ashleigh Moolman Pasio out of the running.
Team Mecer rider Anriette Schoeman grabbed the win, her seventh in the race, ahead of USN’s Cherise Stadner and Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag.
SAinfo reporter. Main source: Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour
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