May has been a crazy month for the team, with 6 races contested over consecutive weekends. It has also been a very successful month, winning Continental Championship medals, as well as 11 podiums/ 7 wins across the various categories. To our great surprise and excitement, we have climbed a few places to 25th in the UCI world rankings, which is beyond our wildest expectations.
The month of racing began with the UCI Class 1 – South African MTB Cup Series in Bloemfontein. The city of Bloemfontein is only an hour’s drive from the Lesotho border, so this race was very much a home race. We fielded a big team of 10 riders: 7 Elite men, 2 Elite women and 1 junior – and I am sure that we were the biggest team represented there. Renowned as one of the toughest courses on the SA Cross-country circuit, it was always going to be a difficult race. We were very busy in the pits, dealing with crashes, broken chains, punctures and a broken crank and were very satisfied with the results of 9th for Likeleli in the Elite Women and 11th / 15th for Phetetso and Tumelo in the Elite Men categories. This translates to some useful UCI points and some well-deserved prize money for Likeleli.
Phetetso (centre) battles with Yannick Lincoln (MRI) and Arno du Toit (RSA) for the bronze medal at the African Championships.
There was no time to rest, as we were immediately jetting off to Mauritius for the African Continental Championships representing Team Lesotho. Mauritius is an island paradise - great for holidays, but a completely foreign mountain biking experience for our riders. The cross-country course was in the relative highlands and, with plenty of climbing on each lap, suited us. Our riders performed way beyond our expectations and we were ecstatic to come home with two medals – Lesotho’s first ever medals at Continental level XCO -- Silver: Tumelo Makae (under 23 men) Bronze: Likeleli Masitise (elite women)!
We are very proud of the entire team performance, with Phetetso just missing out on a medal with 4th place in the cross-country and 5th place in the marathon.
1st: Tristan de Lange (NAM), 2nd Tumelo Makae (LES), 3rd Henry Liebenberg (RSA)
XCO Elite Men: 4. Phetetso Monese, 6. Teboho Khantsi
XCO u/23 Men: 2. Tumelo Makae, 5. Malefetsane Lesofe
XCO Elite Women: 3. Likeleli Masitise
XCM Men: 5. Phetetso Monese, 6. Malefetsane Lesofe, 9. Tumelo Makae
XCM Women: 4. Likeleli Masitise.
1st: Michelle Vorster (NAM), 2nd Aurelie Halbwachs (MRI), 3rd Likeleli Masitise (LES)
At the same time as we were competing in Mauritius, the remaining team members raced in Reddersburg near Bloemfontein, South Africa. Even without our top riders, we managed to win the top two podium places in the 72km main race through Paseka and Tseko respectively, as well as 3rd for our junior rider Eric in the 50km race.
Tumelo & Likeleli celebrate their medals
On the 20th May, the team was back to full strength and competing at one of Lesotho’s top MTB events–the Malealea MTB Monster. Again it was a show of strength-in-depth for our team, winning the top three podium places in the main 75km event, through Tumelo, Phetetso and Paseka respectively. We also won the shorter 55km and 25km events as well. We were very encouraged to see that each of these categories were won with record-breaking times - another indicator of the progress we are making as a team.
The month rounded off last weekend, with the first round of the South African Free State Province MTB Marathon Series across the border in Ficksburg. This is always a tough test, with some of South Africa’s best MTB riders hailing from this region. The pace in the 60km race started off quite gently, but Phetetso and Tumelo ramped up the pressure when the climbing started at around the 15km mark. They broke away and managed to stay away together for the entire distance, with Phetetso just edging his younger teammate out at the end. Likeleli also won the 60km elite women’s category, with Eric placing 2nd in the junior men 40km race.
Phetetso (front) and Tumelo set the pace at the Free State Marathon Series.
Thank you to all our #DreamMakers for your fantastic support!
UCI Rankings (as of 23 May 2017):
The Sufferfest is the principal sponsor of the The Sufferfest African Dream Team (formerly ACE-The Sufferfest-Lesotho MTB Team), based in Lesotho. Team Manager Mark West will be updating us every month with an inside look at this underdog team. Words and photos by the recent-made Knight of Sufferlandria, Sir Mark West.
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