The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria commemorates the Pioneer history of South Africa and, in particular, the history of the proud Afrikaner (Dutch) people. To some it is a symbol of Hope and to others it is a symbol of oppression.
I’m not even sure if the 6 Lesotho boys noticed the impressive monument in the background, or knew anything about the symbolism as they lined up against the region’s best mountain bike riders last Saturday. Their focus was on the tough seven laps of the XC circuit ahead of them.
Some might claim that the Monument and the Apartheid system that it represented is the reason why their South African opponents were riding more expensive bikes, latest trends in helmets and flashy eyewear. But that was not on the minds of the boys as they lined up for the start.
That’s why I love the Basotho people of Lesotho. They are incredibly poor and disadvantaged, but rarely complain or try to blame other historical groups. Instead with an incredible resolution they determine to work hard to lift themselves up.
That’s exactly what our team did on Saturday. Seemingly out-gunned and out-biked by the local Pretoria riders, squeezed to the back of the start-line because they do not look like pro MTB riders – they soon showed everyone what they are capable of!
From the starting whistle they began to pick up places and by the second lap, they had taken complete control of the race by occupying 6 of the top 7 places in the Pro-Elite race.
Phetetso Monese led the race almost from start to finish. 20 year-old Tumelo Makae finished just a few seconds behind him, both riders scooping top prize in the Elite and Under 23 categories respectively. Local rider Frans Nel, put up a great fight to push our riders all the way and claim second spot in the Under 23s, followed by our own Malefetsane Lesofe in third spot. Our new rider, Paseka Makhebesela, took our total number of podium places up to four – taking the silver medal in the Elites.
The race was a great benchmark for us at the start of the season. We are very happy with where we are in terms of fitness etc., but we still have some work to do to get all the equipment back in race-shape. That’s one of the hardships of balancing a tight budget – where do you spend the money? Do you spend it on athletes’ well-being to make sure they get the proper nutrition and are able to look after families – or do you spend it on bikes and equipment?
We are very thankful for the support we get from our #DreamMakers in the cycling industry and we are already making plans to get all the bikes up to shape. We have recently received chains from KMC, we have Token wheels and bottom brackets on the way as well as Limar helmets and DMT shoes. We are also negotiating special deals and sponsored frames with Giant Bicycles South Africa.
Most exciting is the news that our Headline sponsor, The Sufferfest, has increased their cash sponsorship for the season to enable us to reach even higher dreams… and that is why we have decided to rebrand ourselves as The Sufferfest African Dream Team. We also look forward to the regular sponsorship from our local partners, Unitrans Lesotho.
It’s an imposing building – but not as imposing as the obstacles some of our riders have scaled to get to where they are. The cycling talent of Africa is just waiting to be discovered. All these young riders need is for someone to believe in them and give them the opportunity they have been dreaming of. Alongside the cycling, they are building up their self-belief, social skills, productivity and character and these are just the tools needed to empower them to break free from the poverty they were born into.
1. Phetetso Monese: 1:35:05
2. Paseka Makhebesela: 1:42:21
4. Teboho Khantsi: + 1 Lap
Under 23 Men:
1. Tumelo Makae: 1:36:13
3. Malefetsane Lesofe: 1:38:29
5. Patrick Manasi: 1:53:43
1. Phetetso Monese: 1:35:05
2. Tumelo Makae: 1:36:13
3. Frans Nel (South Africa): 1:36:33
4. Malefetsane Lesofe: 1:38:29
5. Paseka Makhebesela: 1:42:21
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 Mark West.
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