We are proud of being Africa’s number 1 mountain bike cycling team and our exploits over the past few weeks highlight the efforts we put in to keeping that top rank. We know that there are better riders out there (particularly in South Africa), but there is certainly no more consistent or better represented team on the continent.
The past few weeks have seen us take the +3,000km drive through the Kalahari Desert to Windhoek, Namibia. The XC course was fantastic, the organisation and hospitality was great and the racing was fast and furious – just the way we like it! The only negative was the extreme heat, which caused two of our riders to feel unwell shortly before the race. To their credit – they all dug in deep and raced to the end. We didn’t get any podium places, but we had all four of our riders inside the top 10 of this UCI Class1 race.
Of course, this race did not receive as much fanfare and publicity as the Cape Epic, which had finished the previous weekend. We had feared that we would lose ground in the rankings to the big teams at the Epic, but picking up useful points like we did in Namibia keeps us in touch with our competitors. When working on such a tight budget like ours – we just can’t afford to blow our entire annual budget on a race like the Epic.
We were not able to take the whole team to Namibia, so on the following weekend we gave the others a chance to race in the Clarens MTB Marathon. This used to be part of the UCI World Marathon Series, but has transformed into a 2-day stage race configuration. It was great to see our riders battling towards the front of the field once again. There is a perception that cycling is a ‘white’ dominated sport, but we hope that young Africans seeing our riders competing so well, will realise that it is a sport for all. We are very proud that our riders are consistently the top black riders in most of the events we compete in.
Back home, cycling is starting to get some of the accolades it deserves and we were extremely proud when Phetetso Monese scooped Sportsman of the Year in the Lesotho Annual Sports Awards ceremony two weeks ago. Phetetso has been such a great ambassador for the team and continues to compete at the top of his game. He is an inspiration to the rest of the team and to countless young cyclists in the country.
Our crazy few weeks climaxed last weekend at the SA MTB Cup event in Pretoria, South Africa. Both the men and women’s field were packed with Africa’s finest riders – out to prove a point after Europeans dominated the opening round in Cape Town. The course had been worked on since last year, with the addition of some tricky rock gardens and long, loose climbs. Phetetso settled in well in the opening exchanges, but lost touch with the leaders on the long-winding descent. It’s certainly something we have to work on, because all of our riders were gaining ground on the climbs and then losing out on the declines.
In the end, Phetetso had to settle for 14th position with 20-year-old Tumelo Makae following him in 15th position. This is Tumelo’s best result by far in this Series, with his previous best being 25th at the same venue last year. He is showing massive improvement. Teboho shocked everyone by lining up on a retro Giant XTC 26” on the second row of the grid. His bike was in for repairs and he wanted to remain true to Giant. He managed to stay on pace for the first half of the race, but eventually succumbed and finished in a respectable 23rd place. Malefetsane also finished in 22nd after suffering some pain during the race.
In the elite women’s race, Likeleli continued to show great improvements and battled hard to win 9th position. It’s great to see the elite women’s field getting more competitive and larger, buoyed by the influx of some very talented young girls. We also had our young girl, Bakang from Botswana, in the race and she showed a lot of improvement to come home in 12th.
All the hard worked has paid off. We had expected to lose ground to the big teams after the Cape Epic, but instead we have gained a place to 27th in the world. I wonder how much longer we can keep up this dream of remaining in the top 30.
Ahead of us are some more great races. We have already travelled to races in 3 different African countries and we have 3 more to come with African Championships in Mauritius, followed by some racing in Swaziland and Botswana. We are, without doubt, the most travelled and consistent MTB team on the African continent and we are proud to showcase our #DreamMakers’ products everywhere we go.
We would like to thank everyone for your great support – without which we would not be able to make these African dreams come true for our riders...Thank you!
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.
Read more from Mark West on The Sufferfest African Dream Team...
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