Bike-jackers in Hilton

2014-02-01 00:00

HE thought he could run away from his muggers, but in the end they caught up with him.

It was a terrifying moment for Hilton cyclist Jens von Fintel (40) who was held up last Sunday morning while cycling near the tree nursery in Mountain Home Plantation.

This was the third robbery involving a cyclist in the Hilton plantation in less than a month, and a potentially worrying trend with the coming UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in April.

“International riders are going to be coming here soon to train and what if one of them gets attacked?” asked a cyclist who did not wish to be named.

This week Von Fintel described how he tried to escape from the two men who had just pulled him off his bike. “I’d been riding for about an hour and was tired. As I neared the top of a hill, they stepped out and told me to stop. I suspect they had been waiting for me. I said, ‘Take my bike’, but they weren’t interested in that, they wanted my phone. I threw it in the grass and ran away, in the direction of two people I had just seen riding horses.

Von Fintel said he looked over his shoulder and saw the two men, who were armed with a log and a knife, pursuing him. “I was tired and had been sick. After about 200 metres I couldn’t run any more. I was finished.”

The muggers wanted his CamelBak and his gloves, and were threatening. “The one was holding the log in the air like he was going to hit me and the other guy had the knife. But once they had that stuff they threw some stones at me and said, ‘Go!’”

His mugging was similar to two other incidents involving lone cyclists, on December 26, when a watch was taken, and January 21 when an iPhone was taken. In both cases, the robbers were two men. The SAPS media liaison office did not respond to requests for more information about these two attacks.

Von Fintel, who is self-employed in the electronic security industry, cycles two to three times a week and said this was the first time he’d had a problem. “I deal with crime on a daily basis and I always thought I would be on top of the situation if something happened to me, but they were too quick.” He wasn’t carrying any pepper spray but said this wouldn’t have helped anyway, as there was no time to respond.

He said Hilton police were “very jacked” and he went out with them after reporting the incident to show them where it had happened and warn other people walking and fishing at the dams in the area.

Cyclists riding in the plantations around Hilton have been urged to go out in groups and publicise incidents if they happen. Kirsten Hughes said the group she cycles with uses Whats­App to organise rides and on the morning of Von Fintel’s attack they were due to ride on that side of Hilton and changed their plans when friends told them what had happened to Von Fintel.

Meanwhile some members of the midlands cycling community downplayed the incidents. Consultant Matthew Drew said muggings and bike-jackings happened all over the world, and there were various precautions which cyclists could take to increase their safety while out riding (see box). And MTB World Champs event director Alec Lenferna, dismissed concerns about the safety of world cup riders. “If the problem was in the competition area I’d be worried, but it’s not. To me the link is incredibly tenuous at best,” he said.

Safety tips

• Ride in groups whenever possible.

• Avoid risky areas if you are not riding in a group.

• Take pepper spray.

• Don’t ride in the dark.

• Ride at times when there are other riders on the trails.

• Do not resist.

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