Cape Town Cycle Tour
Review: Karen Watkins
There is some consolation in possessing this 40th anniversary book of the Cape Town Cycle Tour after the disappointment of this year’s race being cancelled on Sunday March 12 due to strong winds.
The book came about after author Tim Brink had a conversation over coffee with David Bellairs, who has been involved in the event for many years, and decided to bring out a bigger, better book.
Thousands of cyclists have entered the tour from all over the world but Brink has focused on local personal memories, participants and experiences of the race popularly referred to as the Argus as it had been sponsored by the newspaper.
Brink is the editor of the cycling publication Ride, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year, and is also author of the very handy South African Bike Book. He lined up for his first Argus in 1983 and has now completed 30 tours.
This year is not the first time the race organisers had to make tough decisions. Brink writes about 2015 when the race was shortened from its initial 104km to 47km after a massive veldfire on the route.
Another memorable year was 1987 when it was known as the Argus Rotary Cycle Tour and when the organisers drafted the help from the navy in Simon’s Town to rescue riders from strong winds and rain.
The tour also raises thousands of rand for charity, through the Rotary Club of Claremont.
The 312 pages of the book are illustrated with over a thousand images, the one on the front cover showing riders without helmets.
Brink starts at the beginning when the tour was the brainchild of engineer Bill Mylrea and architect John Stegmann.
They were inspired to create the tour after discussing cycling and cycling safety for the few recreational cyclists in the Western Cape. The very first chapter describes how they formed the Western Province Pedal Power Association and a proviso by the Department of Sport was that the “The Big Ride-In” only be open to white participants.
They ignored this – a brave move in the late 1970s when BJ Vorster and PW Botha had the country in their steely apartheid grip. The race drew 525 entries who left the start line outside the Castle in Strand Street.
This year, several name changes later, this iconic event drew 37 199 riders.
What I really liked about the book is the layout, with each of the 39 tours to date featured as a separate chapter, including stats, all the winners and interviews with iconic personalities such as the now disgraced Lance Armstrong who took part in 2010.
Also read about the six people who have completed all 39 tours; how bikes and kit have changed over the years; how completion times have changed and why; and how those who completed the tour were allowed to do it a second time.
Bellairs has described the book as the best-researched and referenced history of the iconic event to date. This book is a must-have for anyone who has ever cycled in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, or those thinking of cycling it for the first time.