Cycling team puts up solid performance

Cycling team puts up solid performance

Maseru – Lesotho’s cycling team continued its steady progress on the international stage with a solid performance at last week’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Cairns, Australia. The five-day championships ended on Sunday and Lesotho was represented by a three-member team of Tumelo Makae, Ramohanoe Ramohanoe and 2016 Olympian, Phetetso Monese.

Monese, who is ranked 97th in the world and is the highest-rated black African in the International Cycling Union (UCI) rankings, was Lesotho’s best performer finishing 64th out of 75 riders in the men’s elite race.
Only three African riders took part in the star-studded event and Monese finished ahead of South Africa’s Sithembiso Masango and William Mokgopo.
In the end, the race was won by Switzerland’s Nino Schurter ahead of Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic and another Swiss, Thomas Litscher, but Lesotho team manager Mark West said he is proud of the side’s performance in testing conditions.

He said the course in Cairns was one of the most difficult in the world with the circuit four kilometres in length and races lasting five to seven laps depending on the category. “I am very proud of everyone and I am happy with the performance,” West said.
“This was the world championships and the standard of the course and the competition we were against was higher than we anticipated. Our guys have been competing on the African level and we are amongst the top teams in Africa.”

“Monese was pushed off the track at the start of the loop but he managed to pick up and increase his pace to finish 64th,” he added. “I am proud that Monese was the top African finisher in the elite men category beating two South African riders.”
All three members of Lesotho’s squad in Cairns are part of the ‘ACE-The Sufferfest’ cycling team and the championships represented invaluable experience for the younger riders Ramohanoe and Makae.

“Ramohanoe was in the junior men’s race, unfortunately he crashed out when he was around 60th place,” West said.
“His target was to beat a young guy from Namibia (Marcel Holz who finished 63rd) and at the time (Ramohanoe) crashed out he was in front of (Holz). Unfortunately, he crashed out and hurt his shoulder.”
“In the men’s Under-23 race Makae finished in 64th place among 73 riders but he was still struggling with an injury he picked during training,” he added.
West said Lesotho went to the MTB World Championships with several objectives in mind – the main one being to gain experience before qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics begins next year.
He said the exposure gained in Australia would be vital down the road especially with the 2018 Commonwealth Games set to be held in nearby Gold Coast.
Lesotho’s increasing standing on the mountain bike circuit over the past two years is also an opportunity for the sport and its riders to reach new frontiers.
West said in order for Lesotho to make the next leap and consistently qualify for world-class competitions the team has to enter world-class events, which is why they took a gamble on going to Australia. “We also wanted to go to Cairns because it is not too far from the Gold Coast (where the Commonwealth Games will be held). They are in the same region and we wanted to experience the area and meet the people. We made a lot of friends.

“We got to be interviewed on local radio stations, local newspapers and many people came to support us and many will assist us further with preparing for the Commonwealth Games,” West said.

“Another objective was to qualify for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games though unfortunately that one didn’t work out for us. Finally, we wanted to maintain and improve our world ranking. “The new rankings came out (on Tuesday) morning and we moved (up) one place to 26th (in the world). I think there is going to be a new qualification system for the Tokyo Olympics and we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

Lesotho’s trip to Australia was supported by Alliance Insurance who forked out M80 000 to help the team. The Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) also pitched in with M41 000.

Alliance public relations officer Limakatso Mokobocho declared the company “very proud” of Team Lesotho.
“We will continue to support them going forward,” she said.

Luciah Phahla

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