Weaving a history through experience

Posted on 8 February 2019

Like so many that have earned this honour before, Yolanda Walsh will be riding her 21st Cycle Tour race in 2019. A rich history comes with this race, with the character and beauty of the event that attracts many cyclists from across the country – and even abroad – to experience over 100kms of Cape Town’s finest views on closed roads.

There is much to credit regarding this race – from the strong heritage, the organisation of the event itself, the participation of all emergency services in a planned and orchestrated manner. But looking closer there is more to these arrangements than meets the spectator or participant’s eye.

Yolanda is a nurse who spent 10 years working in ICU and teaching nurses specialising in critical care, and now works in the Mediclinic Corporate Office plotting and implementing the strategy for ensuring nursing expertise in Mediclinic. Her love for cycling is overshadowed by her passion for the role of nurses in South Africa. It is this kind of passion for care that also inspires the Mediclinic and ER24 teams that support each and every rider on race day.

Yolanda remembers years where winds pummeled them on course, years where the soaring temperatures caused severe heat stroke among some riders (with the event being stopped at one point) and even the race that was shortened as a result of fires that had ravaged the terrain a few days before the event. “Each year’s race seems to develop its own personality due to some environmental or other coincidental event. Last year I was in a position where I needed to perform CPR on a cyclist – memories like that stick in your memory and create a long lasting impression of the race.”

“This race can be seen as a controlled major incident,” says Dr Basil Bonner, who was originally responsible for the event team when Mediclinic joined the race in 1995. “It is our responsibility to plan the management of the major incident, and carry out the plans and contingencies. We have spent months and years gaining experience in events such as this, and when we arrive on site it is our responsibility to keep the riders out of harm’s way. Our doctors and nurses are experienced, and hand-picked for their roles.”

In 1995 the race consisted of about 13 000 riders participating in the event. In the intervening years it blossomed to the capacity 40 000 riders currently registered for the 2019 event.

For years, Mediclinic has been associated with expertise and the science of care. These principles are the DNA of the event team. Health assessments were previously undertaken at the expo and then later replaced with online screening questionnaires, which all formed part of the planning and understanding needed to prepare for 40 000 riders on a single loop. The riders’ information highlights risk, profiles riders and gives doctors context for planning. Riders who have completed the online survey and require treatment by our doctors at the finish line race hospital will have their records available for swift diagnosis and understanding of any underlying issues.

“Nothing is done in the event planning that is not intentional. Our medical assistance points on course receive specific designations because of the type of terrain or distances riders have covered. Some are advanced medical stations while others provide basic medical support. Our medics across the route in ambulances are allocated zones, patrolling shorter distances to ensure quick access in an emergency,” says Dr Darren Green, Race Doctor to the Cape Town Cycle Tour.

“We know that things occur during races, we are in a state of readiness. But it is more than 20 years of supporting world class events that allows us to make swift decisions regarding the safety of riders and how to manage conditions or services being delivered on route,” Dr Green explains.

Yolanda comments, “I have a renewed respect for the logistics and organisation around the race because I have recently been involved in streamlining the work done by local Mediclinic Emergency Centre Unit Managers. Each station on the route is manned by a clinical team – nothing is left to chance in their preparations. Understanding these elements from the clinical side rather than the rider’s perspective changed my perspective of the race.”

We wish Yolanda, and all other riders the best of luck for this event. We will be on the sidelines cheering you on, and if necessary, there to lend a helping hand.


In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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