The possibility of changing the date of the Cycle Tour would also be up for discussion. In what was a Cycle Tour first on Sunday, event organisers were forced to put the brakes on the colossal tournament, in its 40th year, minutes before a sea of 35 000 cyclists were set to take to the cordoned-off streets of the Cape Peninsula.
Gale force winds at times reached close to 100km below the Cape Town Civic Centre concourse where the Cycle Tour starts. The threats of protests and the risk of smoke inhalation from fires also forced the race organisers’ hand.
“We know the Civic Centre area is a potential problem area by now,” event director Dave Bellairs told the Cape Argus on Sunday. “However, I don’t think it’s a crisis because obviously the wind is not something we can do anything about.
“In 2009, which was the other windy year, we were able to get everybody from start to finish. But again, moving the starting line is something that would need to be tabled and discussed and could very well be a possibility.”
Bellairs said he hoped the event’s reputation would not suffer damage because of the cancellation. “The vast majority of cyclists supported the decision to cancel.
“The cyclists who were there truly appreciate the way the decision was made the way it was. I think a lot of them were very relieved because we took the decision out of their hands, I believe we made the right decision. We could not risk one person being seriously injured, or a fatality on this route as a result of the winds. It would’ve been irresponsible.”
Pictures and videos from the start of the race circulated on Sunday, showing cyclists battling to stay upright on their bikes, with many choosing to push their bicycles instead, while others clung on to the frames to prevent the wind from sweeping them away.
Race director Donovan Everitt added: “This is the first time in the history of the event that we’ve had to cancel. We have shortened the event before as a result of fire and we have stopped the event early as a result of excessive heat, but we’ve never had to cancel the event.”
Bellairs said planning for the 2018 race would start on Monday.
“We normally plan a year and two or three months in advance and what we will do is debrief post this year’s event. We’ll look at things like the start.”
A decision to move the event to a different season was also going to be discussed, Bellairs said, who added that the ideas were “highly unlikely, but not off the table”.