SHOOT: Phil Liggett remarked on the low number of police marshals, and ordinary television watchers noticed the same thing. From the perspective inside the convoy there didn't seem to be that many. Especially few police marshals. That said, if the riders get strung out, and when you have dozens of intersections as you would have through dense suburbia and urban Johannesburg, those marshalling resources can quickly disappear. And it is difficult to get back through the convoy when the roads narrow. There seems to be some additional drama in terms of Europcar being escorted off their plane to PE earlier this evening.
Here's the statement by CSA:
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.