Amashova celebrates 30th birthday

2016-08-23 06:00
 Photo: supplieD Glen Connell (left) having completed 25 years and Henk Duys having completed 30 years are some of the ‘local legend’ cyclists with their green numbers being recognised by the Tsogo Sun Amashova race organisers in the build-up to the 30th anniversary of the race.

Photo: supplieD Glen Connell (left) having completed 25 years and Henk Duys having completed 30 years are some of the ‘local legend’ cyclists with their green numbers being recognised by the Tsogo Sun Amashova race organisers in the build-up to the 30th anniversary of the race.

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SOUTH Africa’s oldest road cycling race, Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic is turning 30 this year. As part of the celebrations for reaching this significant milestone, the event’s coordinators have launched a “local legends” campaign.

According to Tsogo Sun Amashova’s Race Director, Annie Batchelder, the campaign being run via predominantly digital platforms looks to recognise loyal cyclists that have been riding this race for 10 years or more and are esteemed members of the Green Number Club.

The history of this grand classic cycle race, is one of dogged determination to succeed in spite of the odds. The idea of having a bicycle race on the route of the Comrades Marathon was the dream of veteran Springbok cyclist Dave Wiseman and his friend Tony McMillan.

At the time the relevant authorities, did not share the enthusiasm as The Natal Mercury and Pick n Pay who agreed to support the race in its early years.

The NPA felt one day-long event was enough and wouldn’t budge. Finally, a local politician, who saw the value to Durban 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 350, then 500, then 550 and so on. In the early days of the race only four hours were given for all to finish, which created the impression that this was a race for only the most serious cyclists.

Resistance by the traffic authorities towards the race continued until 1998, with just over 800 riders participating in the event. The growth of the race was slow when compared with other cycling events taking place 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 mayor, Obed Mlaba. The mayor immediately endorsed the event, and the profile of the race changed completely. The route changed from the unexciting Walter Gilbert Road to right outside the city hall in West Street. In order to accommodate this dramatic finish, the western freeway had to be closed.

KZN Transport Minister, Sbu Ndebele was quick to see that this happened. 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 today, as KZN’s biggest cycling race and the only cycle race with the city’s endorsement giving it full road closure.

In 1999 the organisers wanted to build the race with its own identity. The race takes place in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal province and naturally has a strong tie to the region, its people and the culture.

The word “Amashovashova” was put forward, which is a Zulu word that describes the pedaling or pushing-shoving motion. “Ama” denotes everybody doing it together.

In 2010 the race finish found a new home at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the stadium built for the Soccer World Cup and the race finished at Moses Mabhida Stadium until 2013.

Since 2014, the race has run from Pietermaritzburg City Hall to Durban, ending at Masabalala Yengwa Avenue, with the prize-giving at Tsogo Sun’s Suncoast

Entries are still open, entrance can be secured online at www.shova.co.za

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