A woman participating in the 50km event was confronted by a man wielding a knife who, after threatening her, stole her bike. As organisers we are all very grateful that she was not injured.
The incident took place during the 10th running of Die Burger MTB Challenge.
Organisers were alerted via the emergency line that a suspicious man was spotted in the Faure sector of the route. The sector manager was immediately dispatched to the location to assess the situation. The area is covered in alien vegetation making it very difficult to spot any culprits.
The sector manager remained in the area during which time we got no further reports.
Whilst patrolling the area, the sector manager responded to her calls for assistance and could transport her to one of our roving route managers who brought her to the finish area. There she was placed in the care of the event co-organiser and staff while we waited for her husband (also riding) to finish.
As background, the event uses 11 Sector managers with vehicles to manage the various sectors of routing that need to be covered. Each route arrow is rechecked on race morning and the sector managers are tasked to ensure that the course is safe.
A lot of opinions are currently being aired about the event’s responsibility in ensuring rider safety and to what levels the event should go to ensure safety.
It is a well known fact that cycling events are targeted by criminals. Up to date this has been restricted to petty crime in and around parking and event staging areas.
For this year’s event we employed 32 security guards to prevent theft from vehicles. These are not car guards but security staff from a registered security company.
On top of the 32 guards, we had 25 trained car guards from the Stellenbosch parking meter management team.
In one incident, for example, a man approached the car guards offering each R1000 in cash to move from the area to allow him to target cars in the area but was dealt with the security team.
As organisers, we deal with multiple event related incidents during the day, managed through a central venue operations centre.
In terms of the incident in question, we must at this stage look at what has to be done differently to ensure something similar does not happen again.
It is certainly not expected that an incident of such extraordinary nature would happen while a large event takes place considering the volume of participants and focussed event planning in execution.
Again, this type of incident has never happened on our event, or similar events, before to our knowledge. We view this incident in an extremely serious light and are working hard with the Stellenbosch authorities to prevent similar incidents in future.
It is tremendously frustrating that many months of planning and a stressful week of setup has to be tainted by an incident of this nature. As an immediate measure we have decided to find an alternative venue for a large 1500 rider event we are hosting in the same area in September.