Monese off to Rio

Monese off to Rio

Luciah Phahla

Maseru

Lesotho’s top ranked cyclist Phetetso Monese will depart for the Rio Olympics in Brazil on Tuesday.

The Games run from August 5 to 21 and will be Monese’s debut at the showpiece.

His event, the mountain bike cross country, is pencilled for August 21.

It is a busy time for the 31-year-old.

Monese only arrived back in Lesotho on Tuesday night from Europe where he competed at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and the BIKE Transalp stage race alongside ACE-The Sufferfest Lesotho MTB teammate Teboho Khantsi.

He will rest for a week before leaving for Rio where has he qualified thanks to a special invite from the International Cycling Union (UCI) after finishing third at the African Continental MTB Championships in April.

Speaking to thepost yesterday, Monese’s ACE team manager Mark West said their target is not an Olympic medal but to gain experience and improve the rider’s UCI ranking.

Monese is rated 111th in the world and is hoping to crack the top 100.

“Our target is not really to win a medal at the Olympics but to improve his world ranking and to gain more international exposure,” West told thepost. “South Africa has very good cyclists. Of course, they are not our only aim, but we want to reach their level.”

West said he is pleased with Monese’s preparations and he believes the cyclist is in good shape heading into the Olympics. Monese finished 92nd among 120 riders at the MTB World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on July 9.

His teammate Khantsi finished in 96th position.

“I think they did very well at the World Cup given they were up against good cyclists from around the world,” West said. “I think the South Africans at the World Cup finished in 50th position which shows there was a lot of quality. Other African countries like Mauritius were still quite behind.”

The seven-day Transalp, which began in Austria on July 17 and ended in Italy on July 23, was Monese and Khantsi’s next test in Europe.

The Transalp is one the world’s toughest mountain bike events encompassing a total of 519.51 kilometres and 17 751 metres of climbing. This year more than 1 000 riders from over 30 nations took part.

Africa was represented by only three countries: Lesotho, South Africa and Rwanda.

Monese and Khantsi managed 44th place and West said he is happy the duo achieved the team’s target of a top 50 finish.

Speaking yesterday, Monese called the three-week stopover in Europe a timely learning experience.

“I think we have learnt a lot from our experience in Europe,” Monese told thepost. “First of all, what I noticed is that people are very serious about the bicycle over there unlike here at home. They live for it; it’s their job to ride a bicycle which is why they are good at it. But, here at home we have our different jobs that we are doing. You realise that one only rides a bicycle when they have time for it.”

He continued: “Also, our preparations are halted by the fact that we are working. I am at work during the day. For example, if I have to do 100 kilometres per day as my training, I am only going to be able to do 30 kilometres because I am at work for most of the day. It is not good, unlike those guys over there who are living for it. I think if I can only focus on riding a bicycle, I can reach their level.”

Analysing his and Khantsi’s performance at the World Cup and Transalp, Monese said a further challenge was the European summer.

“Our main challenge was the weather,” he said. “It’s cold here at home and when we arrived in Europe it was hot. We struggled a bit to adapt to that, but we still continued to compete.”

Next week’s Rio Games will be Monese’s second major sporting event after his 21st place finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Monese said he is ready to grab the opportunity the Olympics present.

“With the experience I have gained over (in Europe), I think I am in a good shape for the Olympics. I think I have prepared well,” he said.

Monese’s Rio mission will be aided by brand new equipment.

Thanks to Giant Bicycles South Africa, he will be riding a new bicycle worth M100 000 when he competes at the Olympics.

“We would like to thank all our sponsors,” ACE team manager, West said. “We asked for donations to get Monese a new bike, and we would also like to thank Giant SA for Monese’s new bike.”

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