Things looking good for cycling

Things looking good for cycling

MASERU – The promise of bigger and better things for Lesotho cycling shines bright following the announcement of Lesotho Flour Mills as the sponsors of the Sky Cycling League.
The Sky League is a fledgling national mountain bike (MTB) championship that was launched last November.
The league is divided into three categories which are pump track, cross country and marathon and is open to male and female riders of all ages, starting from as young as Under-14.

For the past three months the Sky League has held monthly stage races which are building up to the crowning of an inaugural overall champion in September – Lesotho Flour Mills’ sponsorship just so happens to come at the perfect time with this month’s racing set for Saturday in Roma.
The much-welcomed sponsorship is another feather the cap of Lesotho cycling which, right now, can rightfully claim to be the country’s most successful sport.

Not only is Lesotho ranked second in Africa in the mountain bike discipline only behind South Africa, its numerous achievements also include having local star Tumelo Makae based full-time at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland.

Lesotho Flour Mills is the latest in a growing number of companies to join the MTB party and it is sponsoring the Sky League with a yet to be disclosed amount that will go towards prize money for racers.
The company will also hand out mealie-meal and other products to the league’s winners.
With the Lesotho Flour Mills sponsorship in the bag, Lesotho Sky Events founder and Sky League boss Christian Schmidt said the next challenge is to host regular events and expand the league into other districts.
Until now, the Sky League has hosted events only in Roma, Maseru.

“One of the goals of the Sky Cycling League is to identify safe spaces and platforms for cycling to grow,” Schmidt said.
“Lesotho is growing, Maseru is growing; there is more traffic (and) it’s getting busier, so it is important for riders to have a safe space to practice their sport and this is why we launched the Sky League in Roma where we have a convenient space,” he added.
Another aim, Schmidt said, is to get more children and their families involved in the sport.
Schools are the obvious starting point and Schmidt pointed to success in South Africa where many schools have added cycling to their sports programmes.

Schmidt is pushing for that to happen in Lesotho as well.
“We want to find the next cycling superstar from Lesotho,” he said.
“Success is never based on luck; success is based when preparation meets opportunity so we want to try our best at Sky League to prepare athletes, businessmen, and mechanics to grow the industry of cycling in Lesotho.”
The pinnacle of the mountain bike discipline in Lesotho is to join and compete for the African Dream Team which is now one of the continent’s top MTB teams and competes regularly on the international stage.
The star-studded squad is masterminded by founder Mark West and includes 2016 Olympian, Phetetso Monese. It is where Makae’s talents were spotted and is the springboard from which he leaped to Europe.
“We want to feed into the African Dream Team,” Schmidt explained.

“(It is) Lesotho’s only professional mountain bike team, the trainer and founder ntate Mark is here. He has been a huge inspiration to us and the team is doing exceptionally well racing around the world. We want to train Young Rider’s boys and girls to do well,” he added.
Schmidt also revealed dreams to found a cycling academy in Lesotho.
Those ambitions, however, will only be possible with more support and Schmidt made a point to thank all of Sky Events’ sponsors such as Sky Gate Tours and Adventures.

“We will be receiving support from Lesotho Flour Mills and without it wouldn’t be possible for the Sky League (to grow). Most importantly, we have a very important partner in Sky Gate Tours and Adventures. They have been a part of Lesotho Sky for a very long time now, assisting with a variety of different tasks at Lesotho Sky,” Schmidt said.
Lesotho Flour Mills managing director Charles Williams, for his part, applauded the Sky League and the work done by African Dream Team founder Mark West.

“I think the aim is to buy into the local community and also make sure that we support Lesotho communities and make sure that we have local companies also buying into this global dream of Lesotho Sky,” Williams said.
“I also know there has been lot of work done by Mark and his team to go forward and up, and I think this is a good opportunity for Lesotho,” Williams added.

An indication of Lesotho’s growing standing in the MTB world will come next month when the country hosts its leg of the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship qualifiers in Roma.
The top three male and female racers from the event will go to South Africa in July to compete in the continental qualifiers for a chance at a trip to the World Championship final set for September or October.

“The Red Bull World Championship is a very interesting event for us and this is the second year Red Bull is coming to Lesotho,” Schmidt said.
“Red Bull has identified Lesotho as a least developed country and they have offered support for our athletes.”
“Pump tracks like ours (in Roma) currently exist in 22 countries worldwide so each country hosts its own qualifying event and the finalists of each country will get a chance to go the world final. We are not yet sure where the world final will be or which country and city (it will be hosted). The date will be September or October this year,” he explained.

Schmidt added: “South Africa has two pump tracks, one in Durban and one in Pretoria. Red Bull would like to see more athletes from Lesotho partaking in pump track racing globally so we have received an offer to take the top three boys and top three girls from Lesotho to the qualifying race in South Africa which will be in July.”
“The conditions are simple: any female and male rider from Lesotho of the age of 16 and above can enter.”

Tlalane Phahla

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