Cape Epic race number 159-1 would have been fitted to the handlebars of the bike of Alex Otto on Sunday 17 October 2021. It would have been Alex’s fourth Cape Epic start and his first in the Grand Masters category. But Alex was tragically killed while training on Sunday 3 October by a speeding mini-bus taxi driver and his death has sent shock waves through the South African cycling community.
More than 300 cyclists joined a dawn memorial ride in Johannesburg for Alex on Thursday 7 October. Emotions ranged from deep sadness to restrained anger as the large ceremonial peloton wove its way from the Military History Museum in Saxonwold to Alex’s home in Oaklands. The cyclists, led by Alex’s Parks Cycling Club-mates, were met with gratitude by Alex’s family, including his wife Janet, his daughters Jocelyn (20) and Cailin (18), his brother, Rene and his sister, Chani.
Alex was fondly known as ‘Coach’ by his Parks Cycling Clubmates, a term that stuck following the informal, yet sage training guidance he shared with his riding buddies more than a decade ago when the Parks Cycling Club was in its infancy. PCC has never really grown to more than 30 members, mostly competitive Veteran and Master category cyclists that thrive on a hard ride, a cold beer and shared passion for riding bicycles – mostly fast.
As they came to terms with the sudden loss of their friend and mentor, they penned this short poem:
Our legend is taken and it feels like the end.
A husband, a father, a brother and friend.
The kindest of souls with a gentle touch.
So many memories and we miss him so much.
We would meet on our bikes with the sky still black.
He would race at the front or chat at the back.
What makes it so sad is that he was our hero, you see.
A brother to all who rode for PCC.
The many that knew him are just as distraught.
To live for the moment is a lesson he taught.
So here’s to the Coach riding singletrack in the sky.
The first is for thirst as we say our goodbye.
“Alex loved training properly, racing hard and enjoying a beer after a tough ride or race. The tougher the ride the more he loved it. In recent years we all sought our own coaches to guide us and Alex was being coached by Dr Mike Posthumus. He was due to race the 2021 Cape Epic with Peter Winn in one of the Absa teams. They were aiming for a podium finish in the Grand Master’s division,” said a PCC spokesman.
“Alex did a lot of riding and racing. But he balanced this with time with his family. He was a very committed family man and he loved his holidays with his family at their Plett home. You will find his name at the top of the leaderboards of many a Strava segment on those Plett region trails too,” added the PCC spokesman.
Alex worked in the banking sector, where he held various positions during his career. During his tenure with Standard Bank, he was involved in the establishment and continuation of the annual Cycle4Kids, a charity-driven bicycle ride from Johannesburg to Durban which raised over R12 million over a 12-year period for children’s charities.
“Alex trained scientifically but he raced with his heart. Nothing was too formidable for him. A perfect example was in 2018 (Alex would have been 47) when our PCC group did a cycling tour through the Italian Alps. After six days of riding big mountains, we decided to enter the amateur version of the Milan San Remo race two days later, which is 295km long.
“The organiser didn’t want to put us in the A Group, so we started five minutes later in the B Group. Ten of us PCC guys and some Europeans reeled the A Group in after 120km. Then, near the end, Alex got into a small group that went off the front on the Pogio climb. They stayed away and an Italian chap raised his arms in victory when he crossed the line first. But Alex was declared the winner because he’d made up a five-minute deficit. An amazing achievement by a remarkable guy,” continued the PCC spokesman.
“Alex was very much a details man. His attention to detail was meticulous. He’d compile race reports on our WhatsApp group that were both detailed and light-hearted and always engaging. We’re really going to miss those. ‘Coach’ was such an integral part of our lives both on the bike and off it.
“You really get to know someone’s true character when you share physical suffering with them. We would usually see Alex two or three times a week for most of the year. We did the Double Century team road race as a club team numerous times. Alex was as composed pulling on the front to up the pace as he was to dropping back to offer support to anyone that needed it.
“We were club mates on the bike and friends off it. Many of us socialised with Alex and his family and some of us developed deep friendships with him. He left us suddenly, but his legacy will live on forever. We’ll make sure of that.”