First of all, thanks to everyone joining us for what was a special, but massively straining week on a crew of 160 people that worked tirelessly on the event without much sleep for the entire week.
Some of the positives we took out of this year’s tour included the venue, race packs, catering, general set-up and, in particular, route control.
Municipal buy-in was fantastic which, amongst other special moments, enabled us to summit Bains Kloof (for the first time in many years in a cycling tour), Du Toit’s Kloof and Franschhoek Pass as well as being afforded wonderful traffic control to take the race through the centre of Paarl – 3 times!
Next year’s route will be evidently less busy with the road works on all the ring roads around Paarl being completed.
A huge thanks to our 8 marshal captains with their 120 marshals (30 of whom are our upcountry ASG crew who were bussed down for the event) and to the road rangers (14 of you), police escorts (8 in total) and metro police pointsmen (120 in total for the week).
After witnessing all the tired and suffering bodies towards the end of this year’s tour, our decision to replace the first stage Four Passes route with a gentler start turned out to be a blessing, and we will think carefully before embarking on the process to replace the current first stage.
It doesn’t happen often, but temperatures in the Winelands can still climb to 40 degrees at this time of the year, which happened on stage 1. The balance of the tour would have been under pressure and we would have probably had to cut up to half of the field on the first day.
As far as reported varied distances are concerned. Please note that distances are calculated from the end of the neutral zone on stages and only up until the finish line. Stages 1, 3 and 4 had neutral zones that varied between 10 and 7km.
To access special mountain top finishes – a crucial element in staging a tour of this nature - it means stages will finish away from the venue. In this case we felt it was a fair compromise on stage 3 to have a predominantly downhill section back to the venue for riders whose loved ones couldn’t collect them on the pass, or adjacently below.
The finish at the Taal Monument is iconic and my only response to riders who complained about having to ride back to the venue is that this stage, as well as stage 3, was published well in advance and it was underlined in all communication that the tour is self-service before stage starts and after stage finishes.
We tried to take as many of the usual logistical hassles out of the tour by basing at one venue, but one can’t have all the stages finish in exactly the same fashion at exactly the same spot – I’m sure everyone will agree such a model won’t be attractive to any true road rider.
Riders must please look at the stages carefully for next year and ensure that they are aware of neutral zones and stage finishes that aren’t adjacent to the race venue. These finishes will always be in the vicinity of Paarl. I can appreciate that a 20km ride back to the venue feels like a 100km ride on its own after completing a stage in the event, but riders need to plan in advance for this.
I’ve addressed the timing and results issue in detail below, but the short answer to our timing/results challenge is that this event is unique in the sense that no timing/results company in South Africa has had to deal with such a vast field of cyclists on a multi-day ROAD stage race, amalgamating amateur and pro, which we run strictly in accordance to UCI guidelines, which also includes timing and results according to the UCI stage race prescription.
CSA racing cyclists are enlightened to the responsibilities a rider carries when racing in a UCI tour, but the majority of the open/seeded riders don’t carry knowledge thereof.
To this end we are going to do much education in the lead-up to next year’s Tour, but also be strict on a rider’s ability to be able to enter the Tour, daily starts following DNF’s the previous day and riders swopping bikes and chips – and even swopping riders (getting a complete stranger to ride a stage in your place!).
On one day we had traffic officials do duty in Paarl CBD from 09h00 – 16h00, which can’t be instituted in years to come – it’s simply unfair to these officers, so we will look at qualifying criteria carefully for next year.
This means those of you that frightened the cut-offs this year, will have some training to do if you’d like to take part again next year. We will put down clear criteria for qualification based on seeding for next year.
Regarding the waterpoints. We went through 15 000 bottles of 500ml bottled water as well as countless thousands of litres in dispensers at waterpoints. We also went through 3 tons of ice during the week.
Unfortunately some riders had a bad experience when more water for refuelling didn’t reach waterpoints in time for their particular stop over. We apologise to these riders.
Of course, more water and ice is always on the way and never far off, but most riders are understandably impatient when they’re taking strain. In one instance our crew were busy refilling dispensers at a wine cellar across the road where they were stationed, but riders couldn’t wait 5 minutes for the crew to walk across the road and back to the waterpoint with refilled dispensers filled with cold water.
Our biggest challenge was the way in which riders wasted water and the rate at which ice melted in the 35-38 degree heat. Countless riders would use two bottles of water to pour over them, drink three more and even pop another two in their back pockets, or, as was the case of the finish line waterpoints, do the same and then even take a four bottles home.
For this reason we asked waterpoint personnel to become strict at waterpoints to avoid this abuse as it’s disrespectful to other riders and wasteful.
The points were nicely stocked throughout with enough eats, Coke and High 5 tablets. Of course, when the water runs out a rider can’t dissolve his/her tablet and this was a problem for riders who couldn’t wait a few minutes.
The Cycle Tour ran out of water over the weekend (my wife can testify to that) and it happens in the Epic too (a friend of mine who rode last year experienced it). Waterpoints run out of water, but riders must rest assured that the refuelling crew are never far away.
For next year we will beef up logistics to increase accessibility and turn-around times at the points and add one more waterpoint on the long stage, but we will still ask of riders to not be wasteful and think of others.
ASG was well prepared for registration – we have registered up to 8000 cyclists at a time in our mass participation road events consistently over the past 12 years without a glitch.
The back-ups caused were due to CSA implementing (for the first time at one of our events) a system where they required even normal CSA membership riders to produce proof of affiliation. And upon not producing proof every riders had to purchase a day license.
This was and is a foreign concept to “fun riders” and created the bottlenecks. If CSA had alerted us to the fact that they were going to implement this system, we would have communicated this to riders in the lead-up to the event.
This also directly led to the timing and results queries later in the tour as some riders simply jumped the queue and grabbed their race boxes without even receiving timing chips – thankfully we had cameras at the finish line which Grevile has been studying the entire week to ensure all riders receive times and positions.
I am sure you will agree that a lot of effort was done in packing the race boxes individually with all the considerable goodies well as each rider’s personal race numbers and personalised top tube ID stickers.
If the CSA requirement is the same for next year, we will have a strong awareness campaign for “fun riders” to purchase their licenses well in advance and bring their license card with to registration.
Timing and results challenges explained
The results and timing challenge at the Tour had the two Open/Seeded bunches at its core and were brought about by a myriad of elements explained below.
The StageRace program, prescribed to international stage races by the UCI, is designed to manage the results for riders participating in a multi-day road stage event. This is to track overall performance and reward top performing riders with bonus seconds and points.
One of the features of the program is that it doesn’t allow a rider to participate in the remainder of the tour if he/she did not complete the previous stage.
In a lot of instances we had cyclists riding, for example, on the third day, when they did not ride on the second, or we did not have a time for them due to the technical difficulties we had with regard to the transponders not registering their times accurately or at all.
This is caused by riders swopping bicycles, using incorrect numbers and transponders, or transponders not being properly affixed to their bicycles. The only way our timekeepers could deal with these was on a trouble-shooting basis upon receipt of queries from the relevant riders.
In any given situation where a rider did not have a time for the previous day our timekeepers inserted a dummy time in order to keep him/her in the Tour. These riders were added onto the arrival list after the last rider for whom we had a time, and will explain the times of 5 or 6 hours allocated to a number of riders.
This process took a very long time as it is important for the timekeepers to provide accurate times; in all instances the judges, timekeepers and the timekeepers searched through all sources of riders’ times to ensure that we only give a rider a dummy time when they REALLY did not have a time for him/her.
Riders affected in this way had their times adjusted when we received a proper time for them, in all cases upon query.
The complexity of all the open/seeded groups becomes a real challenge in this event, especially when they don’t ride every day, or change group on different days, which happened in various instances.
When the timekeepers can’t find a result for them, you don’t know if they were missed or not, -and the majority don’t inform anyone.
As stated, there were a vast tally of swopped numbers and substitutions done without informing the organizers or timekeepers.
While some chips can miss, this is covered by the backup video, so this does not constitute a big challenge.
Our timekeepers are meticulously working through every query and updating their sheets as they go along. With all changes having a snowball effect with all positions in all five stages changing with every update, it’s a time consuming process.
In this instance, the timing system was used to produce the raw data which is then loaded into the road stage race program, from which final results, in line with road cycling requirements, are published. These will then include any bonuses and-or penalties, DNF’s and so on, as allocated by the system
Any riders who have queries once the new set has been loaded, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
In conclusion, the unique and most challenging aspect of this tour is that we try and integrate the pro and amateur into one racing concept on a significant scale – something which no other tour does. We will carefully consider measures to make this integration as seamless as possible for next year’s edition.
We learnt an immense amount this year and will remain committed and consistent to the event, and try and raise the bar with every year’s presentation.