Cape Town Cycle Tour honours firefighting volunteers

9 March 2015

Nolan Hoffman, of Team Abantu, defended his Cape Town Cycle Tour title in superb fashion on 8 March, as he raced over the finish line in a sensational time of 01:01:49 in this year’s 47km Show You Care Solidarity Ride.

Thousands of riders dressed in red to support those affected by the fires on the mountains around Cape Town over the past week. The shortened circular route was a celebration of Cape Town’s fighting spirit and a salute to the Volunteer Wildfire Services, South African National Parks (SANParks) firefighting initiatives, and other volunteers for their heroic efforts.

Crossing the line in an intense sprint, Hoffman held off stiff competition from silver medallist Tyler Day of Team Westvaal, and third placed Brenton Jones of Team Drapac. International professional cyclists Team Etixx-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish and main lead-out man Mark Renshaw, competing in their first South African race, could not outsprint Hoffman.

Clocking speeds up to 74km/h, the leading peloton raced down the M3 in good weather conditions.

Ecstatic to hold off competition from top international and local riders to secure his second consecutive Cycle Tour win, Hoffman praised his “flawless” team. “The week before the race we dissected every kilometre from Hospital Bend so that we were well prepared. Today we bided our time and stayed close to the front throughout the entire route,” he said.

The hardest 47

“It was only 47km, but it was the hardest 47km. There was no place to recover, and before I knew it, there was another hill. The downhills were fast, and I was really concerned about Hospital Bend because I knew it was going to make for a really fast finish. I’m proud of the way the guys rode today – they stuck to the tactic and executed it to perfection. My teammates were fantastic.”

The elite ladies raced in their own start group for the first time this year, and Lynette Burger, of Team Activate Demacon, took top honours in a time of 01:17:52.

Last year’s winner, Cherise Stander (Team RECM) raced ahead of third place, Maroesjka Matthee (Team Bestmed ASG), to claim the silver medal in her 16th Cape Town Cycle Tour.

On her first Cape Town Cycle Tour win, Burger said that, despite the dramatic route change, this year’s event was a thrill. “We set out to do 109km, but the distance doesn’t matter to me because it is still a race. We went fast and hard from the start. We were only a team of three today, but my teammates were fantastic and set up the win for me perfectly.”

Support for firefighters

David Bellairs, a director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, organisers of the annual event, said: “A huge thank you must be said to each and every cyclist who turned out to support our Solidarity Ride today.

“Traditionally the people of Cape Town come out in their droves to support cyclists participating and are a major part of the spirit that has become a trade mark of the Cycle Tour. This special year provided cyclists with an opportunity to give back to the people of Cape Town in a Solidarity Ride and to really show how much they care – for this, we as organisers salute you.”

While the pros raced for top honours the more casual Cape Town Cycle Tour riders came out in support of those affected by last week’s devastating fires and the men and women who battled them. Many of the close on 34 000 riders who lined up for the world’s largest timed cycling event’s Solidarity Ride on Sunday morning dressed in red, and at times large stretches of the Blue Route resembled a red sea of cyclists.

Some decorated their bikes in red tassles and some wore plastic firefighter hats with the words “thank you” written across them on top of their cycling helmets.

Supporters rang bells, blew vuvuzelas and chanted “go, go, go – you can do it” on the side of the road. Many of the supporters were also dressed in red. One banner hoisted by two young women read: “We love firemen.”

One rider said he got a bit tearful when he rode past the entrance to Newlands Forest and witnessed a group of dancing and clapping members of the Volunteer Wildfire Services. “They were thanking us for riding in support of them – after the triple shifts and the danger they faced fighting fires, they came out to thank us. I couldn’t believe it. It was a very special moment.”

One of the cyclists got off his bike and shook the hand of every single firefighter before getting back on his bike to complete the ride. Another cyclist also dismounted and bowed in their honour. The cyclists were in awe of the firefighters but the feeling was mutual.

Volunteers overwhelmed

Richard Stubbs, one of the volunteer firefighters at Newlands Forest, said he was overwhelmed by the support – from the cyclists and from the public.

A large cheer went up when a group of riding firefighters crossed the finish line. “We owe you a debt of gratitude,” said the announcer.

After their ride, four cyclists from Norway changed from cycling kit into running gear, then ran up and down Lion’s Head and on to Table Mountain. “We are doing this to honour all the firefighters and volunteers,” said one of the riders, Lars Bakke.

Despite the shortened distance, the 47km ride wasn’t exactly a breeze with some backmarkers pushing their bikes up Edinburgh Drive.

The traditional route was cut by 60km as a result of the fires, which raged for a week; it is in this stretch of the peninsula that the Cape Tour usually takes place.

Bellairs concluded: “Cape Town Cycle Tour 2015 will go down in the annals of history as the sporting event that united us as a community to selflessly recognise the efforts and suffering of others. Once again – to the entire team at the Cycle Tour, the residents of Cape Town and all other spectators and participants – we thank you.”

Source: Cape Town Cycle Tour