Organiser’s Statement: Tour of South Africa – stage 2

Posted: February 21, 2011 in cycling
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Public support on the second stage of the Cell C Tour of South Africa / Copyright:

Stage 2 of the Cell C Tour of South Africa was neutralized due to traffic concerns on the road.  Kristian House (Rapha Condor-Sharp) will remain in the race lead going into stage 3 as all the points and time for today’s stage was forfeited.

Following the neutralisation of the stage, the race organisers, issued the following statement:

Official Statement regarding the suspension of Stage 2 of The Cell C Tour of South Africa

The suspension of the second stage of The Cell C Tour of SA has been a disappointment to the organisers, sponsors, participating teams and of course the public.  The organising committee took full responsibility for the unfortunate incidents leading to the suspension of racing today and apologised at a media conference in Sandton this afternoon for what  had happened.

The decision taken by the President Commissaire in conjunction with race officials and organisers was based solely on the concerns of the safety of the riders and public.  When we felt we could not secure the safety of the roads under racing conditions, we made the decision to stop the race.

As confirmed by Barry Mocke, CEO Cycling South Africa, Stage 1 of the event yesterday had 20 bike marshals; 10 travelling Tshwane policemen and 130 static policemen within the Tshwane area. From  Tshwane to Johannesburg, there were 21 bike marshals and 10 police vehicles.   During Stage 2 in Johannesburg today, the number of bike marshals was doubled to 40 because of the nature of the rolling road closures. In addition there were 8 x JMPD bikes and 2 JMPD vehicles, as well as 24 JPMD points men and a contingent of free-flow marshals plus all The Cell C ToSA event vehicles.

We understand that there is disappointment amongst the riders and viewers, however we have communicated all the details to the teams and they are clear as to why the decision was made to suspend the race.  Our aim is to ensure a safe ride and we would rather have suspended the race than have a tragedy happen.

The planning for Stage 2 was no different to that of Stage 1.  It is important to differentiate the Cell C Tour of SA from a mass participation event where total road closure is often implemented.  On Stage 2 rolling road closures, much the same as used in similar races all over the world (and used in Stage 1 yesterday), is the method used to secure the route for 120 riders coming through in a matter of minutes.  Rolling road closures require some discipline and understanding from public motorists as well as a commitment to obey traffic officials and marshals.  Unfortunately a few serious incidents where the latter did not happen, jeopardised the safety of the event and led to its suspension.

“The race started off well, leaving Montecasino in the north of Johannesburg towards Dobsonville and Meadowland. Attacks were fast and furious and all the ingredients for a superb day of racing were there. It was however in the region of Rosebank, after approximately an hour and 30 minutes of the race, where the first traffic incident occurred  where motorists were forcing themselves on to the route at the risk of riders, marshals and spectators.  By the time the riders reached Rivonia Road and after two further similar incidents, the race had to be suspended for the safety of everyone concerned.  We are not happy with the outcome, but we will not lay blame anywhere.   We apologise unreservedly on behalf of Cycling South Africa and remain committed to ensuring the remaining stages are as successful as Stage 1”  said Barry Mocke, CEO Cycling South Africa.

In response to a question regarding the future of the Tour returning to Johannesburg, Mocke responded that one of the aims of the event is to showcase the rich heritage, landscape, culture and diversity that South Africa has to offer. The inclusion in the route of the Witwatersrand ridge, the mine dumps, Soweto as well as the CBD and Nelson Mandela Bridge are an important part of our history and heritage and to exclude these in future because of the actions of a few inconsiderate motorists would not do the Tour of South Africa justice.

Our focus currently is not on where future stages will be held, but how to ensure that the remainder of the event is a resounding success. According to Barry Mocke, it was encouraging to see the large number of spectators that turned out for this inaugural event and it is our objective to build on this in every part of the country that the Tour visits.

It is interesting to reflect that road closure information has been distributed to the media for the last two  weeks and has been posted on the website.  This  information has been communicated by several media.  However once this year’s Tour is complete we will review our road closure strategy, not only in planning and implementation but also in the way that we communicate with the public. Perhaps greater communication is required until the public becomes more familiar with the event.

The Tour is looking forward to Stage 3 in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday and while we are confident of the planning and implementation strategy put in place for road closures,  we will be doubling our efforts together with the local authorities to ensure that a repeat of Stage 2 will not occur.   In Port Elizabeth we will have 38 mobile traffic officers, 21 Tour bike marshals and 50 static marshals even though a large portion of the route occurs outside the City.

Whilst there was a “bump” in the road today, this does not detract from the positives of the event such as the standard of cycling that we have witnessed to date, new sponsors like Cell C who have come on board and remain committed to the event , 14 international teams  participating and the fact that we have a big international stage race back in the country after 21 years.

What worries me about this is that just a few weeks ago there were similar issues with the national champs that took place in South Africa. There were issues with marshalling and rider safety and the race was postponed. I know it’s easy to criticise what has happened, but Cycling SA needs to step up to the plate and behave like a professional organisation. For example, send key members of staff onto other cycling events around the world to gain the experience in helping to put together slick tours.  See how a team should work with councils, police enforcement, etc and bring back those skills home and show the rest of the world what we can do. The country can only benefit from it.

This is stumbling block and I firmly believe Cycling SA will learn from it and make the Tour of SA a spectacular one. Now looking forward to stage 3.

  1. […] though yesterday’s stage was cancelled, there were still some great pics to come out of it. With that I would just like to say a big […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CraigBrophy and SweatnGears, SweatnGears. SweatnGears said: Organiser’s Statement: Tour of South Africa – stage 2 #cycling […]

  3. Hoping for good one in future.

  4. sweatngear says:

    […] though yesterday’s stage was cancelled, there were still some great pics to come out of it. With that I would just like to say a big […]

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