Durban - Annie Batchelder, who has rapidly grown the Tsogo Sun Amashova Classic into the more than 10000-strong event it is today, has arguably given more to cycling than cycling has given to her.
She had to have a small toe amputated after it became caught in the spokes of a bicycle wheel as she sat on the handlebars.
In the decades until 1999, when Batchelder bought the event company that owned the race, she didn’t even know much about cycling. She simply made a plan.
“It was just at the start of Google and I typed in ‘how to organise a cycle race’,” she recalled.
“The British Cycling Organisation came up with steps one to 100. I printed it out and based all the organising on that.”
What she had acquired as the Hypermarket Pick * Pay Durban to Pietermaritzburg National Classic and renamed Amashova, has grown and grown, especially after Batchelder got the two cities’ municipalities to agree to road closures for the event.
“In 2014 the UCI (the world body for sports cycling) were looking for an event in South Africa. Because our event was so based on the British system, everything was in place.
“It shows that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and as long as you go to the experts. People who know what they are doing. You listen to them and you apply their advice to your situation.”
She had applied that earlier on in her life, when she started out as a teacher. As “the last one in” at Montrose Primary School in Parkmore, Johannesburg, she was assigned the least sought-after extra-mural activity: cricket.
“I agreed to do so, only if they sent me on a course. So I went to one at King Edward VII School and, under national team cricketer Lee Barnard, learned how to teach bowling and learned scoring.
“We ended up winning the league every year and were quite revered.”
She also believes in listening to Amashova riders’ feedback to hear what changes should be made.
“That has led to the introduction of our providing transport to the start and race packs (to help cyclists from out of town with registration). It’s also through feedback that we introduced the 35km race and later extended that to a 65km race. The extra 160km for elite riders that results in a loop to Richmond is also the result of recommendations from riders.”
Sometimes valuable feedback comes from “moaners”, but she likes dealing with them too.
“There’s nothing I like more than changing a moaner into someone who buys into your ideas.”
Her heroine is the late Progressive Federal Party leader in the pre-1994 parliament, Helen Suzman.
Amashova riders are encouraged to ride for charities of their choice.
Batchelder’s team comprises her daughter Angie, and Melanie Felt.
“I’ve never noticed gender to be an issue but I think women are more pedantic. We plan far ahead. Often men leave things to the last minute.”
She believes women are given plenty of encouragement in South Africa today and that the trick is to always deliver on one’s promises.
Like she seems to have done, with only nine toes. “Actually the loss of my toe hasn’t affected me at all.”
This year’s Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic was launched on August 1 and will be held on October 20. For more information, visit www.shova.co.za