GOOD TO GO: The Cape Town Cycle Tour takes place on Sunday, with organisers confident that all systems are in place for the event. A number of measures were implemented to ensure it goes smoothly. Picture: Jason Boud
Cape Town - The world’s biggest event of its kind, the iconic Cape Town Cycle Tour has been given the green flag and it’s all systems go for the tour to kick off on Sunday. Iconic, too, is the tour’s starting point - the Grand Parade, where the world’s greatest statesman, the late Nelson Mandela made his first speech after 27 years in jail.

Cyclists from around the world have been touching down in the Mother City ahead of the world’s largest individually timed bike race.

The tour’s media and marketing manager David Bellairs said: “We are ready, we have all systems in place and all the plans are in place to make sure this event goes smoothly; the weather seems to be playing along.”

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On Thursday, the official Cape Town Cycle Tour Expo opened at Cape Town Stadium. The expo gives cyclists a chance to collect their race numbers and register for the cycle tour. It all kicked off smoothly enough, but the sheer volume of people coming through the doors caused a system crash by late afternoon, which delayed the process slightly.

The tour had to be cancelled for the first time in its history last year due to strong winds which, at points along the route, were gusting at up to 120km/h. It celebrates its 40th edition this year, and organisers are confident the event would not be cancelled again.

The start of the tour was moved late last year, as its traditional starting point under Cape Town Civic Centre created a wind tunnel that made it almost impossible for riders to start into. The race will start between the Grand Parade and City Hall on Sunday.

Planning for the cycle tour, which brings millions of rand in revenue into the Western Cape economy, was thrown another curve ball by the severe drought the province is facing.

Organisers quickly made a plan to go completely off-grid and not use any municipal water for the event. This includes bringing in three million litres of water - sourced from areas not experiencing drought - into the city, as well as transporting in drinking water and ice from elsewhere in the country. Locally produced desalinated water is being used for all cleansing purposes.

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Water stations along the route will be reduced to the 14 essential points from a medical point of view. “Our sponsors and participants were very good; charities still benefited to R11 million, but we need a good event this year because people will start losing confidence in the event actually going to be held. We had a shortened route back in 2015, a cancelled route in 2017; we cannot afford to have a route that isn’t a full cycle tour,” Bellairs said.

With about 35 000 participants expected on Sunday, 15 000 from outside the Western Cape, the event is expected to cause some traffic disruptions. Various road closures will be in place from Saturday into Sunday. In the CBD, Castle Street, between Strand and Darling streets, will be closed from 12pm and in Green Point, Helen Suzman Boulevard and Beach Road to the traffic circle (on the city-bound carriageway) will also be closed from midnight.

A number of international visitors are looking forward to the event. “I have taken part in the cycle tour for the past six years,” said Norbet Biba from Frankfurt, Germany. “I enjoy the atmosphere and I enjoy Cape Town.”

Rashid Asvat said: “For me, doing the cycle tour is a yearly tradition. You always seem to regret it if you don’t participate.”

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Cape Argus