Winds batter Cycle Tour competitors

9 March 2009

Strong winds, with some gusts reportedly reaching 140km/h, made the 2009 Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour one of the most challenging events in the history of the race. It also resulted in the winning time of surprise champion Arran Brown being almost 20 minutes slower than the race record established by Robbie Hunter in 2008.

David Bellairs, co-director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, commenting on the fact that only 25 600 out of 35 000 cyclists that had entered the race actually started it, said: “This is 6000 to 7000 fewer than usual and it is due to the wind.

“It’s been the most difficult event in 20 years,” he added.

Despite the tough conditions, the number of injuries was no worse than is usually the case. A total of 71 people were picked up by ambulance during the race, of which 32 were admitted to hospital, with 19 of those staying overnight.

Start delayed

The start of the race was delayed by almost an hour because of the high winds, which led to many structures that had been erected for the event being taken down. Even the helicopters that were supposed to be used for live television coverage were grounded.

The battle for line honours, as usual, came down to a sprint finish. Two-time defending champion Robbie Hunter of Team Barloworld was upset by Medscheme’s Arran Brown, who claimed victory in two hours, 46 minutes and 32 seconds. Neotel’s Nolan Hoffman finished third.

Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti commented: “The wind was strong. It was a bit dangerous out there, but the team are in good form and kept pushing. They took control in the front of the peloton early in the race and I think it’s a good result.”

Women’s champion

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. Like it was in the men’s event, the winning time was some way off the previous year’s mark; Cherise Taylor won in 2008 in two hours, 50 minutes, and 51 seconds.

Five-time winner Anriette Schoeman of Nashua finished second, with MTN’s Marissa van der Merwe in third. Defending champion Taylor had to settle for fifth.

The field included Hollywood star Matt Damon, who is in Cape Town to film a movie, “The Human Factor”, based on the story of South Africa’s victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. He was joined by his brother Kyle on a tandem, and by former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, who Damon is playing in the movie.

After squeezing just inside the cut off time, Damon said: “It was fabulous! Of course I would do it again!”

Both Damon and Pienaar cycled for charity for the Make a Difference (MAD) Foundation.

The new political party, the Congress of the People (COPE) used the Cycle Tour to gain some exposure as some 120 cyclists wore T-shirts in the party’s colours, asking “Are you COPING?”

Giro del Capo

The Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour was the final event of the Giro del Capo, which was raced as four single races. The three stages leading up to the Argus were dominated by Team Barloworld.

A 106-kilometre stage, starting and ending in Wellington, with plenty of climbing en route, made up the first race of the Giro.

It came down to a sprint finish with Barloworld’s Robbie Hunter taking the honours ahead of MTN’s Christoff van Heerden and Neotel’s Johann Rabie.

The next day’s race, covering 143 kilometres, and starting and ending in Durbanville, was won by Team Barloworld’s Christopher Froome, who excelled in tough, hot conditions in which only 40 cyclists finished.

Froome finished three minutes and 31 seconds ahead of second placed Jay Thomson of MTN, with Barloworld’s Darryl Impey finishing third in the same time.

Stage three, a 171-kilometre round route, starting and finishing in Paarl, was contested in extremely hot conditions.

Once again, Team Barloworld had the answer to the challenge with Stephen Cummings claiming victory. Neotel’s Johann Rabie secured second place – his second podium finish – and Dennis van Niekerk of Konica Minolta was third.

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