Cape Times / 13 March 2017, 07:49am / Sandiso Phaliso
The much-anticipated Cape Town Cycle Tour ended shortly after it started on Sunday.
Gale-force winds at the race’s starting point on Hertzog Boulevard, a devastating shack fire at Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay which killed three and destroyed 3 500 homes, and a service delivery protest in Masiphumlele near Kommetjie triggered the cancellation, organisers said.
As cyclists prepared to set off, it was announced that the 109km race route would be shortened to 78km due to a protest on Kommetjie Road.
About 300 protesters burnt tyres and threw rubble on the road from as early as 3am.
Two hours later more tyres were burnt, according to the City’s safety and security executive director Richard Bosman.
A community leader in Masiphumelele, who did not want to be named, said the protest was sparked by threats from the City’s law enforcement unit that pegs, used as placeholders for shacks on a piece of land in the area, would be removed.
Police spokesperson Nolo- yiso Rwexana said 17 people – six women and 11 men – were arrested for public violence in Masiphumelele.
They would appear in court once charged.
About 700 cyclists participating in the women’s invitational race, which had already begun, were ordered to stop after the cancellation was announced.
Gale-force winds at the starting point were so strong that cyclists could not handle their bikes.
Cape Town Cycle Tour director David Bellairs said that after consulting various roleplayers he was “forced to make the difficult decision” to stop the 40th edition of the race.
“Our priority first and foremost will always be the safety of all our participants and the risk of injury and potential fatality at the start, at the finish and on Chapman’s Peak warranted this extremely difficult decision.”
He said the decision was made after endeavouring to mitigate all risks to keep the event open.
Ultimately, the decision was made in the interests of safety, said Bellairs.
Food and drinks prepared for the race day would be donated to those in need.
“We are in the process of coordinating efforts to ensure that goods reach those in the fire-affected areas in Hout Bay,” said Bellairs.
Race participants had mixed feelings about the cancellation, with some endorsing the decision, while others complained of the time they had invested in training, and the efforts they made in coming to South Africa and the Western Cape.
Dave Headley, from Newcastle in England, said he had come to the country for “nothing” and had spent thousands of rands.