Rider comes full cycle on Cape Tour

  • LukeSport6March
When Paul von Zwiklitz participated in one of his first Cape Town Cycle Tours (then known as the Argus) in 1996, little could he have imagined that less than two months later, he would be involved in an accident that almost put him out of the sport for good.
by LUKE ALFRED | Mar 05, 2020

“I still remember the date,” he says with perfect recall. “It was 30 April 1996, and a car took me out as I was crossing a pedestrian crossing at Joburg Airport.

“I was coming up to help my parents move down to the Cape. My right leg was basically in two pieces. It was a nightmare. There’s an orthopod in Cape Town to whom I owe my leg.”

Von Zwiklitz, an electrical engineer who left Joburg in 1970 to do a postgraduate degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and who found both work and a girl in the Cape and never left, was still too badly injured to even consider doing the 1997 Argus, but competed in the following year’s event.

After being on crutches for months, it was a test both emotional and physical and, looking back, he sees it as his finest Argus hour. “That was an important race for me because it demonstrated that my leg was okay,” he says. “I was on a heavy bike with a recently smashed leg, and although I ran out of steam at the end, I was able to participate. That was huge for me.”

As a cyclist, he has had his fair share of scrapes and bruises since, including a badly stiff neck after riding doggedly into a headwind on a fun ride in the Boland, but nothing compares with the trauma of getting back on the bike after a broken leg. “My son, Leon, always felt that the bike I rode in the Boland was too big for me,” says Von Zwiklitz, “and when we found ourselves in a bike shop a couple of days later and that was confirmed, he couldn’t help himself, he smiled like a Cheshire cat.”

Von Zwiklitz rode his first Argus in 1992, doing so with his older son and probably erring on the side of under-preparation, but he’s become more experienced since, recording his best time (4:15) in 2002.

When he isn’t on his bike, training, he’s on his exercise bike, and when he’s on neither, he’s walking in Constantia, the suburb where he lives, for an hour at a time. “I like to think it helps with my health and fitness,” he says modestly. “When I walk it’s with my wife.”

Describing himself as a “cautious rider”, Von Zwiklitz says that he’s out to enjoy himself, savour the pageantry of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and “have fun”. He’s not competing against anyone else and certainly, at 72, has given up competing against his best times with quiet dignity. “If it takes me a little longer, so be it. I tend to ride alone, I’m not part of a group or anything like that. I’m really just out to enjoy myself.”

Other than the howling Cape wind, one of the biggest challenges in the early days was not being able to find decent kosher supplements or food beforehand, but that has been taken care of in recent years. Now, his biggest obstacle – other than perhaps fatigue – is the wind, which can make the route hellish depending where you are and how hard it’s blowing on the day.

This year, the tour starts next to the Cape Town Castle for only the third time in the history of the race, and moves along Nelson Mandela Boulevard past UCT and Constantia down the Ladies Mile to Muizenberg, taking in Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, and Simon’s Town.

Beyond Simon’s Town, the route passes above Smitswinkel Bay at its southern most point before crossing the peninsular for Scarborough and the roaring seas of the Atlantic. “Misty Cliffs outside Scarborough is my favourite part of the course,” he says. “You’re about 60km out at that stage, and beginning to come back into town. I love that stretch.”

After leaving Misty Cliffs behind, the route heads past Ocean View, the informal settlement of Masiphumelele and Noordhoek, before negotiating the steep climb up Little Chappies at the beginning of Chapman’s Peak and its breathtaking views. After that, the route heads to Suikerbossie (where Von Zwiklitz has occasionally struggled in the past) back to the Sea Point finish via Hout Bay, Llandudno, and Camps Bay.

“The Argus isn’t as big as it was five years ago when it had about 35 000 riders, but it’s certainly pretty big,” says Von Zwiklitz. “They stagger you at the start, when you go off in bunches of between 600 and 1 000 from around six in the morning, and the start lasts four hours.

“I’ll be hoping for a beautiful day. For me it remains a special event.”

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