Former Eastern Province cycling champion Garth Botha, who cut his teeth on the Rapport Tour as a bicycle technician, will be keeping participants in the saddle during the 26th annual The Herald VW Cycle Tour in and around Port Elizabeth in early February.
The tour kicks off with the mountain bike races in Addo on Saturday, February 5, followed by the road events in PE the following day.
Botha, who captained the EP road cycling team and was senior time-trial champion for a record six years in a row, learned his trade under cycling aficionado John Webb – considered one of the finest wheel builders of his time.
“Webb’s Cycles was the official mechanic on the Rapport Tour for five or six years in the eighties,” said Botha, who did repairs for such cycling legends as double winner Alan Van Heerden and four-time champion Robbie McIntosh.
He recalled how McIntosh came to him one year with broken wheels and asked him to build a new set. “He rode the entire tour on them and went on to win it.”
Botha started working for Webb on a part-time basis in high school and later while on leave from the army. After completing his military service, he joined the bike shop full-time.
They started Action Cycles together 15 years ago until Botha was ready to go it alone and bought Webb out. He has been the driving force behind the retailer for the last decade.
Although he has developed a natural feel for the job, Botha keeps his skills current and was recently one of only a dozen people in the country to complete a professional Bike Fit course.
Over the years, he has seen many changes in bicycle technology, especially with the rise of mountain biking. “Components like hydraulic disc brakes and shock absorbers make it much more technical than before.”
Botha attributed the success of Action Cycles, which keeps him very busy, to good after-sales service. “Things are so hectic I don’t always have time to put a lot back into the sport, so my way of helping out is to sponsor events like The Herald.”
Action Cycles will be donating a Giant road and mountain bike – worth a combined total of R50 000 – as lucky draw prizes for tour participants.
Race director Shane Bradfield said Botha’s team would also be putting a full support system in place for both the road and mountain biking segments.
“This is the first time that they will be involved on the mountain biking side. Garth’s team will ride the Family Challenge (42km) with toolkits on their backs to provide a full back-up service.”
Bradfield said no outside assistance would be allowed in the racing categories – the 85km Extreme Challenge and 65km Challenge.
Action Cycles will also have a “bike shop” at the race village at the Addo Polo Club for repairs and spares as well as a stand at the pre-race expo at the Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World.
The team will also man the official service vehicles for the road events to attend to mechanical problems during the race.
Bradfield said the 105km national classic on the Sunday was a seeding event for the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour and with the national championships finishing in the city the day before, he expected the country’s top riders to be in action.
The supporting races are the 80km Schools’ and Open Challenge and the 40km Schools’ and Open Challenge.
The Powerade-sponsored 30km Family Challenge, 3km Kiddies’ Challenge and 600m Toddlers’ Dash will run concurrent to the mountain biking events on the Saturday.
Tour sponsors are: Action Cycles, Addo Elephant National Park, Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World, Bukani Print, Gardmed, Life St George’s Hospital, Mountain Rescue Club, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Powerade, Tony’s Appliances and Beds, and Town Lodge.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
The Herald VW Cycle Tour