HUNDREDS of local and international athletes have been left in the lurch after the organisers of Challenge Cape Town – an ironman-distance triathlon – postponed the race 17 days before it was scheduled to be held.
Furious athletes say they have spent thousands of rands on organising accommodation and transport for the race, which was to be held on November 6.
They are also angry that race directors allegedly left route negotiations until the last minute. The City of Cape Town refused to grant permission for the triathlon to be staged because it was concerned about participants’ safety.
Challenge Cape Town 2011 was launched earlier this year as part of the Challenge Family – an international series of 13 triathlons on three continents.
Races are staged in England, Australia, Denmark and Spain.
The Cape Town race, which organisers hoped would attract 1 000 participants, was to start with a 3.8km swim at Granger Bay.
The chilly swim was to be followed by a 180km bike course with more than 2 000m of climbing.
The course was set to follow a similar route to the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.
This would have been followed by a 42.2km run starting in Green Point near the stadium, and then a two-loop run along the Atlantic seaboard.
But this week, organisers shattered the 380 registered participants’ plans, announcing on their Facebook page that “concerns with the course’s safety and the lack of available time to negotiate suitable alternatives” meant the race had to be postponed.
Race director Grant Kunneke described the decision as “a very difficult call”.
“If you don’t believe you can offer something you, the city and the people can be proud of then you have to make a tough decision,” said Kunneke.
“This is the hardest thing we have dealt with in Challenge’s history as this affects so many athletes and their families,” said Felix Walchshöfer, Challenge Family CEO.
“However, it is the correct decision as we will never compromise the safety of our athletes nor the quality of experience we deliver them. We will now continue our good working relationship with the City of Cape Town and our team in South Africa to deliver an outstanding event in 2012.”
But their assurances were not enough for the triathletes who had already registered.
One disappointed participant said on the Challenge’s Facebook wall that the postponement was “a huge blow to the triathlete family” and many insisted that the promise by organisers of a full refund was not enough.
Some said they no longer trusted the organisers enough to take part in the race.
One triathlete, Hannes Otto, said on Facebook that he had “wasted R10 000” on accommodation and transport.
The race’s entry fee was R3 490 per individual athlete and R4 500 per relay team – and triathletes complained that adding the cost of transport, accommodation and the time spent training meant that the promise of refunds was not enough.
The organisers were slammed for allegedly leaving route negotiations to the last minute.
Kunneke said: “The problem was unhindered racing access without racers having to stop for robots or traffic. Securing access back to the finish line via Camps Bay and Sea Point was the issue. In a city like Port Elizabeth you can get the whole city shut down – in Cape Town that’s not easy to do.”
Newlands resident Brian Kerby, who was due to take part in the triathlon, said he had been concerned for some time about the race organisation.
“I have been critical and worried about the race... the organisers should have dealt with the city first, because road closures cannot be organised in a short space of time. They should have planned in advance.
“You put a lot of work into it and I have trained since April.
“I’m from Cape Town so I didn’t lose money, but I’m sure other international riders may have lost money due to the postponement.”
Grant Pascoe, the mayoral committee member for tourism, said that public safety and the ability to respond to any injury or emergency were essential requirements for permission to host “enjoyable and safe events”. – Additional reporting by Natasha Bezuidenhout