Stage 5 of the TransCape stage race in South Africa, a UCI ranked race for the first time this year, has been neutralised after an unlikely chain of events led to the whole race ending up back to front. The elite riders ended up at the back of the race, thanks to a farmer, and a swarm of bees.
The race organisers say that a farmer, through whose land the route took the riders, thought the cyclists had gone through and removed the route markings, which ended up fragmenting the race. Things were then made worse as the marshal on the lead bike was stung by a swarm of bees. You’ll be please to know he was treated and later pronounced to be OK, so if you want to have a little snort at the thought of an elite bunch of XC racers turning up at the second water station only to find themselves at the back, it’s OK.
The race commissaire commented as follows:
‘When we realised something was wrong, we didn’t know how many kilometres the different groups had done. At water point two I gathered the information available and realised the race was essentially back to front, with the elite group behind everyone else.’
He said the options were to have a shortened race from the 50km mark onwards or to hold a time-trial.
‘A time-trial in this situation is not common, but it can be done. But after discussion with the elite riders it was agreed that there were too many riders ahead to have a proper contest and it was decided to neutralise the stage. I communicated this to the race organisers and the owner of the event and they agreed with the decision. It’s tough but that’s just the way it is.’
One half of the leading pair, HB Kruger said they were riding in a fairly big group following the lead bike when they got to a turn-off but found there was no marker:
‘We then jumped over a fence, but at a split further ahead there was again no marker so we returned to the fence and went over it again. After about 7km we got to a route marker that had not been there before, so we jumped onto that section and rode to the second water point.’
We’ve all had rides like this, where wrong turns have had us on the wrong side of fences, streams, or extremely prickly hedges. We’ve got to admit it does make us giggle a little that it can still happen to the pros.
There are two stages remaining of the 614km race, so all being well the riders will be able to fight for placings in these last two stages and the race atmosphere will still be buzzing.
If you fancy racing against pros (or bees) then there are a variety of packages available for participants, with camping or comfortable hotel options for those who want to combine a spot of racing with a travel experience.