When the 2019 Lifecycle Week kicked off with the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge, on Saturday, 2 March there were 35 000 nervous eyes on the weather forecast for Sunday the 10th. They need not have been however; though the Cape Doctor blustered it could not blow away the formidable spirit of the Cape Town Cycle Tour competitors. Even the week’s main event is just a fraction of the story, as the Lifecycle Week celebrated cycling and a healthy lifestyle for eight straight days in the Mother City.
Fortunately, after the drizzle at the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge – where Alan Hatherly and Candice Lill emerged victorious – the weather played along perfectly for the event of the week, which needed good weather the most; the Cape Town Cycle Tour Junior. The fun rides for the youngest cyclists in the family were held under clear skies on the paths of the Cape Town Stadium Precinct. One of the riders who would play a pivotal role the following Sunday, Cherise Willeit, was particularly excited to bring her two boys to the event. “It’s my absolute favourite event” Willeit enthused. “It is such a fantastic day for the whole family and Thomas actually went in the right direction this time” she laughed.
After the Junior event the focus shifted towards gearing up for the Cape Town Cycle Tour Expo; where riders were able to register for the Cycle Tour itself and shop for event apparel as well as everything else cycling related. The doors to the Cape Town Cycle Tour Expo opened on Thursday, 7 March, with 30 000-odd riders and countless more cycling fans making their way through the Cape Town Stadium. The star of the Expo, Marelize Horn, arrived on the final day of registration, after being invited to the Cycle Tour by title sponsors Pick n Pay. Cycling’s overnight sensation, though famous for all the wrong reasons, was a hit among the riders as she excitedly posed for photos.
Marelize, her would-be fellow riders were happy to hear, did not take to the bike for the Cape Town Cycle Tour; ensuring no rugby posts were crashed into by the accident-prone Namibian. The gusty conditions on race day did serve to amplify the pre-event nerves of the first-timers, as they dreaded having their own wind induced “My f*k Marelize” moment. They need not have; as Cape Town Cycle Tour old hands would have told them.
In their minds the infamous South Easter always blew stronger in a previous year. Plus it may be a head-wind in sections, but as the 109 kilometre route is a giant loop of the peninsula, it blows equally from behind too. The elite men’s and women’s races were not adversely affected by the wind at all. In fact for cycling fans the racing proved particularly captivating. Both races came down to a sprint finish, with the mountain bikers who agitated the women’s race losing out to Willeit; as the young mother won her fourth Cape Town Cycle Tour title. In the men’s race the former two-time under 23 cross country World Champion from New Zealand, Sam Gaze, held off the specialist road racers Jason Oosthuizen and Clint Hendriks.
Willeit’s eye for the future of cycling in South Africa does not end with teaching her sons to ride. She was quick to praise the nineteen year old Tiffany Keep too after the Valley Electrical Titan Racing rider sprinted to a hard fought third position, behind Willeit and 2018 champion Kim le Court De Billot. After showcasing her undoubted talent as an eighteen year old last year Keep proved far cannier in 2019 and will be tough to beat come the 2020 Cape Town Cycle Tour.
Behind the elite riders the Cape Town Cycle Tour lived up to its nickname as the “Fun Ride World Champs”. There were smiles aplenty throughout the route and a fantastic atmosphere on the road verges. The summit of Suikerbossie, the race’s last significant climb, was once again a hotspot for fans. With the wind whistling into Hout Bay through Constantia Neck it funnelled over Suikerbossie, pushing riders up the last few meters of the ascent. With the Cape Doctor at their backs even the most exhausted Cape Town Cycle Tour campaigners rapidly picked up speed and whizzed their way through the final sixteen kilometres. Buoyed by the free speed they brought to an end, with momentum and a smile, the 2019 Cape Town Cycle Tour Lifecycle Week.