Winds force Cape Town to cancel bike ride

A group of young riders, from the Velokhaya cycling development project in Khayelisha, find themselves unable to proceed in strong wind at the start of the Argus Cape Town City Cycle Tour on March 12, 2017

High winds forced Cape Town to cancel its annual cycle tour on Sunday as gales threatened to knock riders off their bikes and organisers warned that fires threatened the route.

Cyclists preparing for the Cape Town Cycle Tour struggled to hold onto their super-lightweight bikes as they were caught up in strong gusts, according to an AFP correspondent on the scene.

Winds reached 100 km/h (62 mph) on some parts of the course used for the event which is the largest individually time race in the world, organisers said in a statement.

There were also fears that fires which have spread across the region in recent days could also have threatened the ride, the 40th time that it has been held in the city on South Africa's west coast.

It is the first time that the tour, which was expected to attract 35,000 cyclists, has been cancelled.

"This morning presented a number of challenges‚ not least of which were wind speeds considerably higher than predicted yesterday‚" Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust marketing director David Bellairs told local media following the decision to cancel the 109-kilometre-long (68-mile-) ride.

"This‚ combined with a large fire that broke out in Hout Bay in the early hours of this morning‚ and the added risk of protest action en route‚ were all contributing factors to the decision... to stop the event‚" he said.

Riders who had already started the course were turned back by organisers at the 21 kilometre point.

Many of the participants had travelled from overseas to join the event.

"I'm from Cape Town so it's not a major train smash that it was cancelled. I just feel for all the guys and girls that have come from far away‚" cyclist Greg Anderson told Times media.