Tsogo Sun Amashova celebrates thirty years by recognizing local legends

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South Africa’s oldest road classic cycling race, Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic is turning 30 this year. As part of the celebrations for reaching this significant milestone, the event’s coordinators have launched a “local legends” campaign. According to Tsogo Sun Amashova’s Race Director, Annie Batchelder, the campaign being run via predominantly digital platforms looks to recognise loyal cyclists that have been riding this race for 10 years or more and are esteemed members of the Green Number Club .
“The Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic has become one of the major calendar events that takes place within the province of KwaZulu-Natal. In the last 30 years since the race first started in 1986, it has created a positive impact in the Tourism and Sports Industry in the province, which I am incredibly proud to be a part of. It has been so satisfying to see first-hand the significant growth in the number of entries and more importantly – how many ‘return riders’ there have been. The loyalty of the over 600 riders who have ridden the Tsogo Sun Amashova for ten years and more to earn their green number is testament to the quality of this race on both a social and competitive level,” stated Batchelder.
The history of this grand ‘classic’ cycle race, is one of dogged determination to succeed in spite of the odds. The idea of having a bicycle race on the route of the world famous Comrades Marathon, between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, was the dream of veteran Springbok cyclist Dave Wiseman and his friend Tony McMillan. At the time the relevant authorities, did not share the enthusiasm as the Natal Mercury and Pick ‘n Pay who agreed to support the race in its early years. The NPA felt one “day long” event was enough and wouldn’t budge. Finally, a local politician, who saw the value to Durban hosting such a race, forced the traffic authorities’ hand. So, reluctantly, permission was granted for the first race to take place in 1986. The race was called ‘The Natal Mercury/Pick n Pay National Classic.’ The traffic authority gave permission for only 150 riders to participate.
In the years that followed, the traffic authority gradually increased the allowable participation from this small group to 350, then 500, then 550 and so on. In the early days of the race only 4 hours were given for all to finish, which created the impression that this was a race for only the most serious cyclists.
Resistance by the traffic authorities towards the race continued until 1998, with just over 800 riders participating in the event. The growth of the race was slow when compared with other cycling events taking place throughout the rest of the country. An approach was made to the new local government to relax the restrictive conditions to the race. The race organiser showed the revenue generation potential to tourism in the city to Durban’s Mayor, Councilor Obed Mlaba. The mayor immediately endorsed the event, and the profile of the race changed completely. The route changed from the unexciting Walter Gilbert Road to right outside the City Hall in West Street. In order to accommodate this dramatic finish, the Western Freeway had to be closed down. KwaZulu Natal’s Transport Minister, Sbu Ndebele was quick to see that this happened. The culmination of this lobbying and planning has produced one of the finest finishes in South African road racing. With these changes, numbers and interest in the race grew dramatically. In addition, the introduction of one of the country’s top sponsors went a long way to making the Shova, as it is fondly known today, as KZN’s biggest cycling race and the only cycle race with the City’s endorsement giving it full road closure.
In 1999 the organisers wanted to build the race with its own identity. The race takes place in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal province and naturally has a strong tie to the region, its people and the culture. These were all important considerations in building the identity of the race. The word ‘Amashovashova’ was put forward, which is a Zulu word that describes the pedaling or pushing/shoving motion. ‘Ama’ denotes everybody doing it together. The name has since taken root and the brand and race that is now a popular highlight on most social and competitive cyclists social calendar was born.
With this name change came a new finish venue at Suncoast. This created the opportunity for more events to be added to the Tsogo Sun Amashova package. The race could now boast being a cycling event for the whole family as children events were introduced and MTB events an optional extra.In 2010 the race finish found a new home at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium, the beautiful stadium built for the soccer world cup and the race finished at Moses Mabhida Stadium until 2013.
Since 2014, the race has run from Pietermaritzburg City Hall to Durban through spectacular scenery, ending at MasabalalaYengwa Avenue, with the prize-giving at Tsogo Sun’s Suncoast. Everyone loves the grand Moses Mabhida Stadium and we are delighted to still have this iconic edifice within the finish area precinct. The main Tsogo Sun Amashova race is 106km long, with two shorter ‘fun ride’ options of 35km, which starts at Hillcrest and ends at Suncoast, and the 65km half challenge, which starts at Cato Ridge and ends at Suncoast. All three races have full road closure. Once cyclists have completed the route they ride onto the world-class beach promenade just north of Suncoast – where they can relax on the Suncoast lawns enjoying an afternoon “at the beach”. After a cold winter inland most cyclists from Gauteng and Tshwane tend to look forward to a day near the beach. Another highlight for this year will be the two live bands that are performing in the public hospitality area, the Kickstands and the Gus Brown Band, which will bring a wonderful vibe to the 30 Year Celebration.
Annie Batchelder, of the Tsogo Sun Amashova is humbled by the success of the race and the support it has gained over the past 30 years by riders and sponsors. “Today the race is the oldest and one of the largest classic cycle races in the country, with prize money of over R100 000 and a starting line-up of more than 10 000 entries over the three races. We are also thrilled to have secured another three-year title sponsorship by Tsogo Sun, which shows all the signs of this race growing even more in popularity and size with Tsogo Sun behind it.”
Entries are still open to cyclists who would like to enter, entrance can be secured online at www.shova.co.za. Please note that the closing date for online entries is the 16th of September at 23:00. Should you need further assistance or additional information regarding the race, please email melissa@amashova.co.za

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