Cape Town Cycle Tour celebrates its 40th birthday

Posted by Erwin Scholman on

The Cape Town Cycle Tour is owned and staged by the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust and it is the largest, timed cycling event in the world. It also celebrates its 40th year in 2017 when, on the morning of Sunday, 12 March, 35 000 cyclists will line up to ride the 109km route through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery that includes the iconic Table Mountain as a backdrop.


In recent years the race has usually followed a scenic 109 km circular route from Cape Town down the Cape Peninsula and back. The start is in Hertzog Boulevard in the city centre, at Cape Town's main Civic Centre. It then follows a short section of the N2 called Nelson Mandela Boulevard, then the M3 to Muizenberg, and then Main Road along the False Bay coast to Simon's Town and Smitswinkel Bay. The route then crosses the peninsula in a westerly direction, past the entrance to Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park (within which Cape Point is situated). It then heads north along the Atlantic coast through Scarborough, Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Chapmans Peak, Hout Bay over Suikerbossie hill to Camps Bay and ends next to the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point. The whole route is showed in the picture.


The Cape Town Cycle Tour (CTCT) injects in excess of R500 million into the Western Cape economy every year, but even more noteworthy is the millions it raises for charitable undertakings and cycling development which has a significant impact to those in need, both regionally and beyond. The charitable surplus generated through the CTCT goes to the Pedal Power Association (PPA) and Rotary Club of Claremont, which are equal stakeholders in the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, the organisers of the annual event. Thanks to those who participate in this iconic event, Rotary and the PPA share around R10 million of the proceeds between them annually.

Both organisations have walked a long and illustrious journey with the largest timed cycle race in the world – the Rotary Club of Claremont is celebrating 36 years of being involved, while the PPA in its original incarnation organised the Big Ride-In 1978, which later morphed into what is now known as the Cape Town Cycle Tour.


In 1977 Bill Mylrea and John Stegmann organised the Big Ride-In to draw attention to the need for cycle paths in Cape Town. The Ride-In, which was held under the auspices of the then newly founded Western Province Pedal Power Association (now Pedal Power Association) was a great success and attracted hundreds of cyclists, including the Mayor of Cape Town. The cyclists met on the Grand Parade and rode down Adderley Street to the Foreshore. Out of this the idea of holding a long-distance ride, to be known as the Peninsula Marathon, was born. The Western Province Pedal Power Association (WPPPA) warned would-be riders that it would not be easy, stating that “a good two months preparation is recommended”. By the following year The Argus, Cape Town’s largest newspaper, agreed to sponsor the “Argus Cycle Tour”. The inaugural event was held on 28 October 1978 and attracted 525 entrants, 446 of whom finished with an estimated 14 finishing in under 3:30. The event started outside the Castle in Strand Street and finished in Camps Bay, a distance of 104km.

The start was moved in 1981 to Hertzog Boulevard to cut down on congestion at the on-ramp to Eastern Boulevard, where it has remained to this day. In 1988 was the introduction of a number of new innovations. M-Net joined The Argus as a co-sponsor and the event became known as The Argus M-Net Cycle Tour for the next 3 years; the tour received TV coverage for the first time; Digitron came on board and remained the IT sponsor until 1999.

In 2002 was the first time in its 25-year history, the Tour had to be stopped. Weather predictions for the day were ‘fine and warm, with a maximum temperature of 28 degrees’, whereas temperatures of 42 degrees were reached on parts of the course. Despite 132 000 litres of Coke, 45 000 litres of Energade and over 60 000 litres of water being consumed, heat stroke, heat-related injuries and dehydration became an ever-increasing problem. On the recommendation of the medical team, the Tour was stopped at Ou Kaapse Weg at approximately 14h45. In 2006 was the introduction of special start groups for racing Veterans and Masters. The cool weather and light rain resulted in a faster tour, the average speed being approximately 10 minutes faster than in 2005.

In 2014, the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour was officially renamed the Cape Town Cycle Tour(CTCT) in recognition of the global status and international appeal. The week before CTCT 2015, devastating Southern Peninsula fires closed sections of the traditional 109km route, threatening the event with cancellation. On 4 March 2015 – just four days before Race Day – the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust and its key stakeholders agreed that the event’s comprehensive crisis plan would not suffice in these exceptional circumstances.  Together with City and Provincial officials, the Trust decided to stage a unique, vastly shortened 47km circular route. Named the “Show You Care Solidarity Ride”, the 2015 Cycle Tour served to unite all participants on the day to salute the Cape’s brave fire fighters and volunteers for their heroic efforts. Exceptional resourcefulness and endless efforts to save the event were handsomely rewarded on the day when 35,000 riders helped to ensure that CTCT 2015 retained its position as the world’s largest timed cycling event.


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