With the prominent Ironman South Africa almost a week away, many triathletes are already in Port Elizabeth training and prepping in the area, which will also host the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
According to Herald Live, Frederik Van Lierde, the 2015 Ironman South African Champion and 2013 Ironman World Champion, was attacked by a group of men while out on a training ride in the area on Friday. He was mugged and robbed of his cellphone and sunglasses while riding a stretch of Victoria Drive. Just hours earlier, another recreational cyclist had also been attacked on the same road.
Ironman communications specialist Michael Flanagan said of Van Lierde: “The suspects slowed him down by standing in front of him and he was pushed to one side of the road. They hit him on the head with sticks, but fortunately he was wearing a helmet.”
An eye-witness reached out to authorities and Vam Lierde, 37, was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
He confirmed the event over Facebook and expressed his intent to still race Ironman South Africa
The other cyclist who was attacked, Leon Killan, had a similar experience. It is unknown whether the events are linked, as none of the attackers have been identified.
“I had been warned about Victoria Drive, but I had seen cyclists there before and it was during the day so I thought it would be safe. They pushed me to the ground and started hitting and kicking me. I fought back and held onto my bike, which they were trying to pull away from me.
“I was shouting for help and some people came out of the shacks and just looked at me. None of them helped me.
“A woman driving past saw what had happened and she stopped and helped me. She took me to the police station, where I reported the attack and managed to freeze my bank cards,” Killian said.
These events no-doubt cast a shadow on the April 2nd event, but also on next year’s world championships.
With files from Hendrick Mphande and Shaun Gillham.