About 240 two-man teams faced up to the 4 days, 4 stages, 341km and 5511m of climbing which made up the ninth edition of the Panorama Tour.
After 8 years on the same route, poor road conditions forced a change of the 1st stage of this year’s Panorama Tour. Instead of the normal White River, Kiepersol, Sabie and back to White River route we did an out and back loop to the Sudwala Caves. In my opinion it was a nice change which made the 1st day much more manageable but still delivered a testing course. The final day Time Trial was also changed and took place on an out and back route on the Sabie road to avoid the heavy vehicles travelling on the Yaverland road.
Besides the 2 route changes, the rest stayed the same. Panorama Tour is still a 2-man team, Pro-Am road race event where no 2 pro riders may compete together giving the event a completely different feel to the usual road races. The race organization also seemed to step it up again this year and everything seemed to be on another level with better marshalling and rider safety clearly the priority.
I am not sure how many Panorama tours I have done, but all of them barring 1 have been with local dignitary and long-time friend Francois Lourens. This year Francois was still recovering from a viral infection and we had to race smart to get through the event in one piece. After all – there is no point in racing hard if it is not rewarded with breakfast and copious amounts of coffee afterwards and one had to be alive to enjoy these spoils of war. This meant finding a strong tandem and sitting their wheel on the flats and downhills while helping them on the climbs. Petri Strydom and Johan Deysel duly obliged and we became good friends over the next 3 stages riding together for much of the race.
At the sharp end of the field Barend Burger and Ian Pienaar (Demacon/Europcar) took the leaders jersey from Stephan Reyneke and Wesley Eslick (Bestmed ASG) after stage 2, going on to win the event ahead of sub veteran pairing Franco Ferreira and Trevor Davies (Complete Cyclist) who were held up in a big crash soon after the start on day 1. (Francois and I rode the tandems wheel to a 39th place overall and a 15th place in our category for those that are interested)
Much more than any result driven competition, the Panorama Tour is an interesting and exciting race format where tandems, men’s, ladies, mixed and masters teams all start together and race each other with only teams capabilities limiting them instead of some category based on age, bike or gender. The team element also forces riders to help each other and egotistical individuality only gets penalized making for a very friendly, yet competitive environment at the event.
I don’t often race on the road these days, but after completing the Panorama Tour I am tempted to get back on the skinny wheels for a few more events.
As long as the races are held in the Lowveld of course…