ACE ladies set to make history

ACE ladies set to make history

Luciah Phahla

Maseru – The ACE-The Sufferfest Lesotho MTB ladies team is set to make history by becoming the first local female outfit to compete in the Lesotho Sky Race.

The Lesotho Sky Race, which attracts cycling teams from around the world, is celebrating the sixth edition and it will begin on Monday.

The ACE ladies team will comprise Lesotho’s top ranked female rider Likeleli Masitise and Botswana cyclist Bakang Ebudilwe.

The pair raced together in Botswana in May and, speaking on Tuesday, ACE manager Mark West said he is excited to have the first local female team to contest the Lesotho Sky Race.

“This year we are hosting the very first women’s team (in the Lesotho Sky Race), Likeleli will ride with Bakang from Botswana,” West told thepost.

“We (ACE-Team) have participated in lot of races, more than 20 international races (this year), but obviously this is the highlight of the year because the best riders come to Lesotho.”

No Lesotho rider has won the Lesotho Sky Race but West said he hopes the ACE men’s duo of Lesotho Olympian Phetetso Monese and South African Stuart Marais can change this.

In the very least, the race is another chance to collect ranking points in the International Cycling Union (UCI) world ratings.

“It’s been a great year for us and we are very excited to take part in the Lesotho Sky,” West said.

“The race will help the riders gain international points and will help them raise their profile. Monese will partner with a rider from South Africa, Stuart Marais, and I think they have the possibility to win (the race). I think (Monese) will learn a lot from (Marais) tactically and gain a lot of experience. Hopefully they can produce a good performance,” West added.

The six-day race will start on Monday in Ha Ramabanta with a 69 kilometre trek to Malealea. The contest will also encompass Roma and will conclude next Saturday in Semonkong.

When the action ends the winners in both the men’s and women’s competitions will go home M80 000 richer.

The Lesotho Sky Race comes at a time when cycling in the country is on the rise.

Last month in Rio, Monese became the first-ever local cyclist to participate in the Olympics Games while Lesotho is now ranked 33rd in the world and only second behind South Africa on the continent in the mountain bike discipline.

The hope now is that Lesotho can break its duck in its flagship mountain bike event.

West said the reason a local rider is yet to claim Lesotho Sky Race honours has been the superiority of South African cyclists. He said Lesotho cycling is determined to narrow the gap.

“After the (Rio) Olympics we have set goals for ourselves,” West said. “We are targeting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to at least qualify with two riders. Then in 2022 the Commonwealth Games are coming to Africa (Durban, South Africa) and we hoping to win a medal.”

West continued: “South Africa is number one in Africa, they have the best riders and they have a strong foundation. They race every weekend and, let’s be honest, they are good and that’s the reason why we have not won the (Lesotho Sky) race. But we are working hard, it’s not easy.”

“You can see even in athletics, (South Africa) used to dominate but now our marathon runners are winning the South African races so we will get there as well,” he said.

Lesotho Sky founder Christian Schmidt, meanwhile, lauded the Lesotho Sky Race’s growth which will see the event host 100 entrants for the first time since its inception in 2011.

“Lesotho Sky Race is an internationally recognised race and the riders will earn points to improve their (UCI) ranking,” Schmidt said on Tuesday.

“When we started in 2011 we had only 22 riders and this year we have 100 riders. Cycling is the highest ranked sport in Lesotho, it is ranked higher than football,” he added.

Of the 100 riders that will take part in this year’s race, South Africa dominates with 57 cyclists followed by the United Kingdom with 13 while hosts Lesotho and Switzerland both have 10 participants.

Germany, with four, is the other country with multiple entrants while Norway, Uganda, Botswana, United States, Australia and France will all be represented by one rider.

Lesotho teams at this year’s Lesotho Sky Race:

Phetetso Monese (LES) and Stuart Marais (RSA) (Vodacom Lesotho)

Malefetsane Lesofe (LES) and Tumelo Makae (LES) (Alliance Insurance Company)

Teboho Khantsi (LES) and Paseka Makhebesela (LES) (Standard Lesotho Bank)

Tseko Shelile (LES), partner to be confirmed (Maluti Mountain Brewery)

Likeleli Masitise (LES) and Bakang Ebudilwe (BOT) (ACE-The Sufferfest Lesotho MTB)

Lesotho Sky Race 2016 route:

Monday, 19th September

Ramabanta to Malealea (69km)

Tuesday, 20th September

Malealea loop (55km)

Wednesday, 21st September

Malealea to Roma (87km)

Thursday, 22nd September

Roma to Ramabanta (82km)

Friday, 23rd September

Ramabanta to Ramabanta (52km)

Saturday, 24th September

Semonkong loop and Public Day (47km)

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