‘OLDEST CLASSIC CYCLE RACE IN SOUTH AFRICA’
The Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic takes place on 21 October 2018
between the Pietermaritzburg City Hall and the Suncoast Casino in Durban. It to a
large extent follow the route of the world famous Comrades Marathon which has
been run since 1921. It consists of 4 different cycle races, viz. 35 km, 65 km, the now
popular 106 km and for the 1 st time this year a 160 km Premier Distance open ride,
for which there are various criteria in place to allow entry.
The Race is a major boost to the accommodation industry in both KwaZulu-Natal’s
capital city, the City of Choice, Pietermaritzburg and the province largest city and
port, Durban. The ever popular Jean-Lee B&B and Self-catering in Pietermaritzburg,
is full to capacity with cyclists and eagerly anticipates hosting these athletes.
HISTORY OF THE AMASHOVA CLASSIC – 1986 to 2017
The history of this, the oldest ‘classic’ cycle race in the country, is one of dogged determination to succeed in spite of the odds. The idea of having a bicycle race on the route of the world famous Comrades Marathon, between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, was the dream of veteran South African cyclist Dave Wiseman and his friend Tony McMillan. Realising that they needed media support to make the venture fly, they enlisted the help of Fred Forge at the Natal Mercury. Forge assured the duo that he would give the race publicity if they went ahead, and with that assurance they approached Pick n Pay who agreed to sponsor the event.
The relevant authorities, however, did not share the enthusiasm of this visionary group. Finally, a local politician, who saw the value to Durban of hosting such a race, forced the traffic authorities’ hand. So, reluctantly, permission was granted for the first race to take place in 1986. The race was called ‘The Natal Mercury/Pick n Pay National Classic.’ The traffic authority gave permission for only 150 riders to participate.
In the years that followed, the traffic authority gradually increased the allowable participation from this small group to several thousand in the 2017 Race with entry not open only to most serious of cyclists.
The bitter resistance by the traffic authorities toward the race continued until 1998. At that time, just over 800 riders were doing the event. The growth of the race was slow when compared with what was happening in cycling throughout the rest of the country. An approach was made to the new local government to relax the restrictive conditions to the race. The race organiser showed the revenue generation potential to tourism in the city to Durban’s Mayor, Councillor Obed Mlaba. The mayor immediately endorsed the event, and the profile of the race changed completely. The culmination of this lobbying and planning has produced one of the finest finishes in South African road racing! With these changes, numbers and interest in the race grew dramatically. In addition, the introduction of one of the country’s top sponsors went a long way to making the Shova, as it is fondly known as KZN’s biggest cycling race and the only cycle race with the City’s endorsement giving it full road closure.
The very first event left the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg in fierce heat on a Saturday afternoon, and followed, for the most part, the Comrades Marathon route. In order to try and make the race as close to 100 kilometres as possible, a course change was necessary. The route bypassed the famous Polly Shorts hill and instead the challenging 14km Alexander Road climb was introduced up Fox Hill to Thornville before heading to Umlaas Road to follow the Comrades Marathon route through the Valley of a Thousand Hills, Hillcrest, Pinetown, Westville and eventually Durban next to the Indian Ocean, the holiday capital of South Africa.
May Pietermaritzburg and especially the Bed and Breakfast industry fully support this event which once again makes the City of Choice the focal point of iconic sporting events, It joins the Comrades Marathon, and the Duzi Canoe Marathon as an event that attracts tens of thousands of athletes and their support team to the Capital of KwaZulu-Natal. Jean-Lee B&B and Self-catering will be there to support the cyclists all the way in the Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic.