The cycling fraternity reacted in shock to the passing of long-time event organiser and team manager Jill Bezuidenhout, who was regarded as a mother figure to many.
Bezuidenhout, affectionately known as “Tannie Jill”, passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer and tributes have been pouring in on social media ever since.
“Antie Jill, you have been a part of my life since the age of 13. I can’t imagine going to events and not seeing your happy face.
“What a life you lived and what a woman you were. We love you always and we smile with tears in our eyes. Rest in peace liefste Antie Jill.”
“Thank you for your kind heart and everything you’ve done for the sport. You truly were the mother of cycling. RIP Tannie.”
Anriette Schoeman, a seven-time national road champion, was accompanied by Bezuidenhout on one African Games trip where she was the assistant manager.
“Jill was a strong and caring person. She was very much involved with mentoring younger riders and was like a mom to them.”
One of these young talents was 19-year-old Callum Ormiston, who placed sixth in the U23 national time-trial this year.
“It was with great sadness upon waking up to hear about Tannie Jill’s passing.
“There are many cyclists that have had the opportunity to be positively influenced by Jill over the years.
“I for one had my opportunity in the last few years when I joined a young group to race in Holland and Belgium, as well as in the Junior Tour of Ireland. It was a trip I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
Danielle Dalton, sister of former national road champion Heidi, said it was because of Bezuidenhout that she had the fondest memories of the sport.
“It’s because of you I got to travel the world, make best friends and love riding my bike.
“You loved us so hard, despite how much nonsense we gave you. So often you reminded me of my purpose for this crazy life.
“I’ve never met someone with a heart as giving, as generous and incredibly huge as yours.
“Here is to many years of memories at world champs, crit racing, laughing and the endless love you brought into my life. Will spend forever celebrating you.
“Thank you for being so strong and holding on as tight as you could. I love you. I love you so much. Rest in peace my Jilly.”
Mpumalanga-based event company HA Toere stated that Bezuidenhout had been an icon in the cycling arena and that her dedication to the young riders, both in SA and abroad, had been inspiring.
“They were all treated with much love and respect. She was blessed to have had so many youngsters in her life and we know that each and every one of them was just as blessed to have her in theirs.
“In memory of Jill, we’ll be renaming the annual Youth Cycling Festival to the Jill Bezuidenhout Youth Cycling Festival.”
Cycling SA, who had undoubtedly lost a great icon within their fraternity, said she had been like a mother to many in the community.
“She cared especially about the youth and always gave them her heart.
“Condolences to her family, friends and everybody whose lives she touched. Jill may be gone from our sight, but never from our hearts.”