You're never too old to ride the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg


Two of the oldest riders in this year’s race just can’t give up. They say cycling is part of their lives and the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg is an annual highlight for them.

Anton Harrop-Allin, now 74 and a Vitality Gold member, will be doing his 23rd Discovery 947 Ride Joburg this year, having ridden every race since its inception.

He only took up cycling at the age of 50 and also enjoys swimming and cross-country running. “Sports are in my blood,” he says.

The oldest enrolled female rider so far this year is Val Scheppel (58) who has completed 22 races. She had planned to stop after 20 races, but then did her 21st in memory of her late husband Chris, and now intends to carry on as long as she can.

“I ride because it is a lifestyle and I enjoy it,” she says. “Actually, I don’t ride a bicycle - I race it.”

Anton has also completed 22 Cape Arguses. In swimming, he has completed 24 Midmar Miles. All this exercise obviously translates into a healthy body and mind: Anton still runs his own businesses.

Val, who is a Discovery Insure customer with both household and vehicle insurance, has been cycling since she was a child so it was natural that she should progress to competitive events. It started with receiving a flyer through the post about 32 years ago for a cycle race, which she enjoyed, and then she joined a cycling club.


Val’s main focus is track cycling. She’s been selected again this year to represent South Africa at the UCI Masters World Track Cycling Championships in the UK. She’s currently training for the event, which includes riding with the training group on Wednesdays and league racing at Hector Norris Park on Saturdays.

That means the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg will be pretty easy for her, then? She says that’s not the case - she hasn’t done a lot of competitive road cycling lately. The 947 is currently the only long road race that she participates in. She also does some mountain biking, when she finds the time. Anton trains mainly at the gym on the spinning machines. At weekends, he rides out with a group on rural roads near his home in Pretoria.

Leading up to the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg, he does no extra training and doesn’t follow a particular nutrition programme, like carbo-loading. That’s hardly needed unless you are a top cyclist, he says, and he is cycling for fun and to maintain good health. On the day of the race he eats healthily, as he always does, and doesn’t try anything new.

Enjoying the race

Anton regards the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg and the Cape Town Cycle Tour as the country’s two iconic races. His favourite years for the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg, he says, are when it started at Kyalami. He also enjoyed last year’s race, when the usual route was ridden in reverse. “I enjoy it every time they change the route,” he says.

He rides on his own, without supporters. He’s never had a bad fall in all his years of riding the 947 “and, touch wood, I hope I never do,” he adds.

Val enjoys the Ride Joburg route because it is a challenge. Also, it isn’t every day you can ride the streets of Johannesburg without having to dodge vehicles and pedestrians. Over the years, she has cycled the race through cold and wet and burning hot temperatures. One year, she was involved in a multi-bike pile up when one rider’s wheel touched another.

“When I got to the finish with a bandaged arm, the first question my husband asked me was: ‘how is the bike’?” she says.

Another year, she did the Ride Joburg only three months after spinal surgery. “It was tough but I was determined to finish,” she admits.

For several years her focus in each race was to improve the time she achieved in the previous year, but now it is just about finishing it in good form, she says.

Best bikes

Anton doesn’t have an overly high-spec bike. He rides a Scott cycle in the race and he also has a second bike for mountain riding.

Val currently rides a Cannondale Supersix EVO. She doesn’t believe you need to spend a lot of money on a bike, particularly if you are just going to use it for leisure riding. “A proper bike set up is very important, because this can make or break you,” she says.

Hardest part

What’s the hardest part of the race for Anton? “Finishing!” he says. “Because you have to wait another year before the next one.” For Val, it’s Kyalami Hill. She also says: “I never regard a race as being “hard”, rather “tough”. This race is tough for all cyclists, some just make it look easier.”

Whatever your move, you’re never too old (or young) to move more at the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg. Enter now Entries close 7 October.

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