Cape Town - When Bill Mylrea and John Stegmann spun off on Strand Street in 1978, it was the event’s first major milestone.
Yesterday was its latest, as the world’s biggest timed cycling event relaunched as the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
The 109km ride has become affectionately known as “The Argus” since the newspaper jumped in as its title sponsor during the event’s early years.
Ambitions were humble: 2 000 people was considered a tremendous turnout.
But the annual event continued to snowball, picking up momentum every year.
By the iteration there were more than 30 000 riders taking part.
By last year, there were 35 000.
The rebranding of the tour is not a departure from its roots, but a recognition of the iconic city that has been its backdrop since the beginning, said the organisers.
It’s an event that is often named in the same breath as the sport, gracing international publications such as National Geographic.
In light of this, the owners, the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, in association with the three co-naming sponsors – the Cape Argus, Pick n Pay and Momentum, elected to change the event’s name and introduce a new logo in celebration of its global status.
“The event has enjoyed a remarkable journey over the past 37 years,” said the trust’s chairman, Steve Hayward, at a special launch event.
“The new name and logo revealed tonight is a testament to our coming of age as we move into the next phase to becoming one of the world’s most desirable participation sporting events.”
The first route, sketched out by Mylrea and Stegmann in what started as the “Big Ride-In” in the late 1970s, started in the CBD and finished in Camps Bay.
It was a casual ride where cyclists stopped on the side of the road to enjoy picnics and jumped into cars when the uphill sections grew tiring.
“Nobody was really racing,” Stegmann told the Cape Argus in 2012.
Today, international and local riders compete for the honour of winning the race, which winds around the peninsula, finishing in Green Point.
On the second Sunday of March, riders take to the road pushing for sub-three hour times, wearing bright costumes or just pedalling to raise money for charity.
The event draws countless spectators, who watch from the stands or from chairs in their gardens.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said naming the iconic event after the city had a major impact on the drive to make Cape Town “the events capital of Africa”.
“For years, people from across the country and the world have cycled through the city and seen everything that we have to offer. We are honoured that the Cycle Tour has now been named after the city, and look forward to welcoming the participants for the Cape Town Cycle Tour.”
Cape Argus editor Jermaine Craig said: “When the Cape Argus was approached to use our name for the first ride, it spoke strongly to our paper’s civic activist routes.
“In our paper this year we reported that in Cape Town alone 300km of cycling lanes had been completed, or were nearing completion, so the cycling ‘activists’ can certainly say it’s been a case of mission accomplished.
“From the start we have supported the race in its different guises and evolutions and we are proud to again pledge our support to the Cape Town Cycle Tour.”
Malcolm Mycroft, general manager of marketing at Pick n Pay, said: “Pick n Pay, along with the Cape Argus, has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the Cycle Tour. Together with the City of Cape Town and Momentum, we are now moving into a new partnership phase.”
“We have always been incredibly proud to be part of this iconic international event, which not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, but raises funds for many local charities.”
Commenting on the new direction of the Cycle Tour, Danie van den Bergh, head of branding at Momentum, said: “As the newest sponsor in the Cycle Tour family, we could not be happier to be on board and part of the development of this iconic event.
“The tour’s charitable component is important to us and we are proud to share the passion of Momentum’s involvement, the beauty of Cape Town, and the bounty of a South African welcome, with everyone.”