[Photo by Tamzyn Degoumois]
Cape Argus Cycle Tour veteran and darling of South African cycling, Penny Krohn’s passion flows through many interests- her family, reading, ballet, animals, gardening and amongst all of that is her longstanding love for cycling.
The Claremont resident, who refers to herself as a cycling ‘has been’ despite placing first in her age group in 25 of her 26 Argus races, has over the years juggled her love for cycling with being a fulltime mom, committed wife and librarian at the University of Cape Town Department of Oceanography.
The benefits of cycling
Now retired, the loving grandmother of two believes she is privileged to have had a life so enriched by cycling. With a bike strapped to her back, Penny has enjoyed a number of overseas tours travelling countries and “meeting the most fabulous people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise…Where would most women at the age of 40, or 50 or nearly 60 say, meet youngsters of 20 and chat to them on an equal basis where you aren’t their mother or teacher or whatever”.
Whether it was exploring the dusty streets of Oudsthoorn on her first fairy bike, riding around George with her kids in a metal delivery basket adorned bike or racing round the circuit to claim 1 of 4 gold medals in the 1998 Masters Games it has always been the sense of freedom and independence that a bike gives which has given Penny the greatest pleasure “the fact that I was relatively good at cycling was a bonus, I loved it anyway and I still love it. I am not good at it anymore but I still love it”.
Penny’s cycling achievements
In contrast to her self-deprecating modesty, Penny Krohn has enjoyed quite prolific and impressive cycling success as a competitive cyclist claiming eight World Masters Cycling Titles, dominating the 1992 Giro del Capo when it first opened to women and beating the 1998 U.S. sprint champion round the Masters circuit.
Feats which are absolutely incredible when you consider that she entered her first cycle race, the 1985 Cape Argus Tour at the age of 33 and did not turned professional because of a lack of support for cycling and the 80’s/90’s sports embargo in South Africa.
Out of all her races and achievements thus far, the Cape Argus Cycle Tour remains the event closest to Penny’s heart. She laughs as she fondly remembers how “clueless” she was in her first Argus with absolutely no training and riding in a home-made shirt and tekkies with a steel bike which she got for her birthday only three weeks before. She still managed to win her age group and place in the top 10 women.
26 fruitful years and successful Argus’s later, Penny is now gearing up for her 27th consecutive Cape Argus Tour and feeling the fittest she has in a decade.
Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2011
But the name that has become a symbol of ordinary South African sporting determination says she no longer enjoys the Cape Argus “to be absolutely honest, I am jolly scared of falling…It’s a kind of love hate thing really. I do it now because I am kind of on a roll and I have done 26 so I might as well get to 30 and by the time I get to 30 I want to get to 35”.
Despite describing the worlds largest timed cycling event as superbly organized, Penny misses the camaraderie of the initial Argus years which has disappeared in thousand strong throngs of new entrants. “Everyone sort of chatted and you helped each other with words of encouragement but it’s become so big and it’s quite scary”.
In 2003 Penny experienced a cyclist’s worst nightmare when a serious hit-and-run cycle accident left her lying for dead in the middle of the road with a few broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and stripped of her riding confidence.
But Penny was back in 2004 and has competed in over forty events and every Argus since, placing in the top 2 of her age group each time.
Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2010
The Cape Argus Tour 2010 was Penny’s most challenging achievement thus far, when a virus and terrible wind conditions combined to see her place second in her age group for the first time in her tremendous Argus career, “I have never had to dig as mentally and physically deep as I had to dig last Argus, I could not have gone a second faster.”
Cape Argus cycling tips and advice
Her advice to her fellow Argus riders is simply to “race the Argus in a sportsmanlike fashion and be a good sport about it. Ride the race as hard as you can and never give up until you’ve crossed the line.”
Never having believed in setting expectations, Penny says she simply aims to ride to the best of her ability on the day, “ I am loving my cycling again, if I get beaten by that Italian woman hats off to her… if I don’t I am starting my record for another consecutive 25 Argus wins and will have to do another 25 races to break my own record.”