This weekend was packed with cycling action. On Saturday I watched some of the world’s best cyclists power through the Coetzenburg XCO course as part of the UCI MTB World Cup. On Sunday I had the privilege of taking part in my sixth Cape Town Cycle Tour. And to round off a weekend of cycling immersion, I also had the honour of talking to Renée Scott. She holds the women’s record for the fastest Cape Town Cycle Tour on the full route.
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“I’m the director of sport [at Rustenburg Girls High School],” Renée tells me, as she pours coffee in the staff room. Formally a formidable triathlete and two-time gold medalist at the Comrades, this record-breaking legend is also the mother of track athlete, Dom Scott. Renée took part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour this Sunday, and has done so as often as possible since her incredible race of 1991.
Renée Race Ready…
“It was a very special day,” Renée begins. “It was 1991 and, at that stage, there were no separate ladies’ groupings. I was put into the B category because I was essentially a triathlete.” Renée was extremely fit at the time, having given up her geography teaching job for two years of professional competing.
“In those days, professional didn’t mean you were being paid – it just meant you didn’t have a day job. You could run, cycle and swim all day,” Renée adds. A lot of her cycling prep was done with another Cycle Tour legend, Hennie ‘Wiele’ Wentzel, and together they did distance and speed training.
“My husband and I had decided we were going to ride together,” Renée says, “and he always tells the story that I wheel-spun out of the start and he didn’t see me again!” Sounds about right.
One of the things Renée remembers most clearly about that day is getting to the top of Smitswinkel ahead of her group – and still feeling strong. “The men [were] not happy with me at all,” she adds, “and I’ve never cycled so hard in my life!”
Any Race Fuel Secrets?
“I was very poor at nutrition, [but] I’ve changed my ways since then,” she says. “Back in the day, there was very little focus on nutrition, so I would’ve only had water and a couple of GUs on my bike. I would more than likely have strapped a banana to my bike, or put it in my back pocket.” Though, Renée adds, she probably didn’t eat anything as there wasn’t enough time to take her hands off the bars. “It was just head down and focusing on staying safe.”
“I knew when I crossed the line that I’d had a very good ride.” But little did she know how good. Having trained with many of the elite women riders, Renée knew how tough the competition was and, being in B batch, “I didn’t for a moment want to take them on.” Maybe this is why she did so well: there was simply no pressure on her. “I could go as hard as I wanted to – no one was expecting anything from me.”
Unfortunately, being in a later batch, there were A batch girls who crossed the line before Renée, but with a slower time. At the prize-giving that afternoon, Renée’s winning time was missing. “So it took away all the excitement of the actual presentation on the day. But I’m still very proud of it: 2:44:04!”
What Does It Feel Like To Set A Record?
The distances have varied over the years, but Renée reckons that “the reason why people still recognise my record is because of average speed per kilometre, so my average speed is still quicker than any other girl.”
But how does it feel? “It’s exceptional for an athlete to feel 110 percent on the day,” Renée explains, “for the weather to play its part, for your equipment to play its part… Everything coming together on a day, you realise, just doesn’t happen often.” As with all major athletes, she’s had her fair share of disappointments and knew to appreciate that perfect day.
“I get a bit tearful at the start every year, just because it’s an amazing event put on by our city of Cape Town and I am so proud of the city for doing what they do!” Count me in! “The thrill of finishing the Argus, whether I’ve done it in 2:44 or four-and-a-half hours, is just the most wonderful feeling. You’ve achieved such an incredible goal.” A definite one to add to the bucket list.