I could easily write an article on how disappointed we were on the outcome of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. We could include accounts of the negative responses in the Lesotho press and social media reactions to the DNF. It has been difficult to pick ourselves up, but the Sufferlandrian community is full of examples of people who have gone through much worse situations and come through triumphantly.
For both Phetetso and I, our most lasting memories of Rio will always be the support and encouragement that we received from our #DreamMakers all over the world. We really got a sense that we were not just representing the tiny Kingdom of Lesotho, but a much larger community.
Phetetso & Suffer Prize winner Jolanda Neff of Switzerland
That support manifested itself so evidently through the fundraising project towards Phetetso’s dream bike – but it was so much more than that as we continued to receive inspirational messages from well-wishers both before, during and after the Games. The fundraising project raised almost double the amount we were hoping for, totalling $7,683.
In addition to the funds raised, we received great support from the cycling industry with a sponsored frame from Giant Bicycles South Africa, wheels from Token, suspension from SR Suntour and other sponsored items from Pactimo, Limar Helmets, DMT Shoes, Maxxis Tyres, C-Bear Ceramic Bearings, E-Thirteen, Absolute Black, Ritchey and Stages Cycling. If you haven’t already done so, take a look at what Singletrack mag had to say about the bike.
It was very emotional for me to see Phetetso riding that bike around the Deodoro Olympic MTB Park. In his very capable hands, the bike coped with all the obstacles and technical sections with ease. One of our objectives as a team is to provide our riders with equipment that they can race with – equipment that they could not normally afford, but there is always a trade-off between price and functionality. For the first time, I was in a position to give one of my riders top-of-the-range parts and components. It was a very proud moment!
The whole experience of qualifying and being part of the Olympics has taught us so much. It was one the goals we set when we first formed the team less than three years ago. Now we are even more motivated to set even higher goals.
One goal is Durban 2022 -The Commonwealth Games hosted on African soil for the first time. Our long-term goal is to win a medal at these Games. We have almost six years to achieve it! We have also set ourselves the goal of not just one, but two qualified riders for Tokyo 2020.
We know we must step up our game another couple of notches. We have already acquired some Stages Cycling power meters to improve our training and performance testing techniques. We need to increase the financial support to our current pool of riders and be more aggressive in recruiting future talent. We need to look ‘outside the box’ to see if there are emerging riders from other developing African countries that could also benefit from our support.
We have already started. With the funds remaining from Phetetso’s bike, we have acquired another carbon bike to be used by one of our younger team members, Tumelo. We have also put aside some funding as monthly subsistence allowances for the whole team to be able to get proper nutrition and support their families. We have guaranteed that each rider will get a minimum of $70 each month right up to December this year. It may not sound like much but we have found this to be a very profitable use of funding. The allowance frees up time to follow effective training programmes, which radically improves performance.
Next up for the team is the awesome Lesotho Sky 6 Day MTB stage race. This year is going to be doubly exciting as we have the prospect of watching Sir Stephen Gallagher (Dig Deep Coaching and designer of “Rubber Glove”) suffering. We look forward to the prospect of Phetetso with a realistic chance of winning this UCI Class 1 race for the first time. He has teamed up with South African, Stuart Marais, in a partnership which we believe will bring out the best in both riders. Look out for our young team of Tumelo and Malefetsane and our first women’s team of Likeleli teamed up with young Botswana rider, Bakang.
We are also about to embark on a talent identification programme together with the Lesotho National Olympic Committee and hopefully this will help us to discover new talent. Our programme is about helping young African riders rise above the poverty, enabling them reach their dreams and a hope of a better future. If we can find and develop more world-class riders, it also raises the profile so that many more can benefit.
We would like to thank everyone at The Sufferfest for your support. You are a very important part of our team as well. There is an old adage that speaks about the links in a chain … but let’s not go there!
The Sufferfest is the principal sponsor of the ACE-The Sufferfest MTB Team, based in Lesotho. Team Manager Mark West will be updating us with an inside look at this underdog team and Phetetso Monese's quest for glory. Words and photos by Mark West.
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