The 2014 rendition of the 94.7 Cycle Challenge was all about change.
Some of the changes were great and some not so much.
The biggest change was the location of the start and finish. It was moved off the normal route, which means the route had to change also. Only about 20 kilometers were affected but it created some anxiety for both old and new riders.
The location change was inevitable. The previous start/finish line was too constricted to handle the increasing number of participants. The congestion was maddening and dangerous.
The route change was also necessary but race organizers made a few choices we hope they’ll reconsider next year.
This was my third 94.7. I know what it was like last year and how it felt this year. My trustee Garmin even provided some helpful data to share.
Here’s how I graded the race.
Overall Organization (A)
As always the planning, before and during the race, was incredibly well organized. Race packs were handed out efficiently and the exhibition navigated smoothly.
With so many participants – 33,000 – the show draws plenty of suppliers offering great specials. If you’re in the market for equipment, you’ll find it at the expo.
There were a few glitches but considering the size of the race field and the fact that a major transition took place, the grade was high.
Access And Parking On Race Day (A-)
I was lifted to the start from Fourways, very close to the start. There was heavy traffic but monitors kept things moving smoothly and I was dropped off in plenty of time for my start.
Others weren’t so fortunate. Road construction made access difficult and as time went by things slowed down considerably.
The race instructions did warn everyone to leave early enough to be in place one hour before the start but I think that didn’t happen for some folks.
The only glitch for me was my driver couldn’t find the stipulated drop-off point – traffic monitors couldn’t help either – and had to drop me in a parking area, from which we were warned that no exit would be allowed.
It made us a bit anxious thinking he might not get out OK. All was well. He got back home fine.
Pre-Race Instructions (A-)
The race pack pamphlet clearly indicated vital information:
- Access to parking was mapped out and clearly explained.
- Where cyclists were to gather before the start – Circle 6 – was clearly noted.
- I didn’t use it and I’m not sure it was really needed, but a 94.7 app could “drop a pin” to help you find your car after the race. Cool idea even if it wasn’t needed.
Although the clearly marked drop-off point wasn’t accessible, we found everything else exactly as shown on the map. Instructions were easy to follow.
The organizers did warn all participants to Plan, Plan Plan! We took that warning to heart and probably avoided a lot of anxiety.
Race Route (D)
This is where the grade drops dramatically. It was the biggest fail point.
The exact location of the start isn’t important. What is important is the new start began with 35 kilometers of climbing – 589 meters ascent with only 319 meters descent. That may not sound difficult but the graphic below is worth a thousand words. The highest point in the profile is approximately 37 kilometers into the race.
The routing also increased the overall ascent of the race. Last year’s ascent, 1456 meters, was already more than either the Amashova or the Argus. This year it was 1496!
But the real kicker was the ending of the race. Not only did it include two difficult climbs very close together, one of which was inaccessible for pre-race training (Steyn City), but after that it also ended on a climb.
That’s three climbs in the last 7 kilometers! Off sides in the extreme!!
As one rider said in the parking lot . . .
It’s enough to put a new rider off the race!
It was his first 94.7. Hopefully it won’t be his last.
All The Usual Postives (A++)
The 94.7 does some things very well year after year. So well, in fact, no one can claim to be better.
Water Points: There were eight official water points strategically placed offering liquid refreshment, peppy music, encouraging cheers and medical assistance.
And that’s not all. Joburg is definitely the friendly city. So friendly, in fact, that unofficial support tables and gazebos abound, offering chocolate bars, bananas, water packets, back rubs, mechanical assistance, live bands, cheering and even the occasional shot of strong beverage.
While they cheer, they braai. You feel welcome and at home in every part of the race.
Sweeper Vehicles: Sweeper vehicles are provided to carry riders and their bikes back to the race hub should they feel they can’t finish the race, and there are lots of them. Fortunately, I’ve never had to use one but I’m always encouraged by the fact they are plentiful and frequent.
They take care of riders in this race.
Mobile Medical Assistance: Medical assistance is offered everywhere. Not just at the water points. Not just at the start/finish hub. They offer plenty of help on the road also. I saw several medical teams helping people along the route. If your in trouble just call.
Festive, Festive, Festive
This deserves another mention. Joburgers make this a great ride. Races can be grueling, but friendly words, smiling faces and upbeat vibes keep you pedaling. It’s like a rugby match all over the city. There are so many celebrating, it’s hard to believe anyone is left at home.
Hats off to the people of Joburg and the organizers for another great race. My only request is please flatten out the ending next year.
Oh, and again, I rode for the South African Children’s Resiliency Project (SACRP). A charity that Empowers Grannies.