August 2015 – Tour de Wilderness, the organiser of the acclaimed annual Nedbank Tour de Tuli mountain bike event, is delighted to announce that four development riders from the Exxaro MTB Academy will join the 350 riders cycling almost 300km across Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa between 13 and 18 August 2015.
“We are extremely excited that Exxaro and Nedbank have sponsored these riders to take part in this year’s Tour. Their participation is perfectly in line with what Children in the Wilderness is setting out to achieve – to empower the next generation of leaders in Africa. As most of them are in the process of becoming professional cyclists, we are certain that the Tour will not only provide them with an opportunity to meet and interact with likeminded participants, but also to enjoy the sport in a relaxed, non-competitive environment”, says Tour Director, Nicola Harris.
The Nedbank Tour de Tuli attracts cyclists from across the globe and provides them with an unforgettable opportunity to follow wildlife trails in pristine, wilderness areas. Cyclists not only have the opportunity of encountering a variety of wildlife, but the route also includes magnificent scenery and cultural interactions with the local communities living on the boundaries of these protected areas. All funds raised by the Tour are channelled directly into Children in the Wilderness (CITW), a non-profit organisation that runs sustainable environmental education programmes to bridge the divide between communities and the wildlife areas next to which they live.
The Exxaro MTB Academy aims to introduce historically disadvantaged communities and individuals to mountain biking and assist with the transformation of the sport in South Africa. It hopes that by introducing them to the sport, the Academy can inspire children and young adults to build a positive future for themselves and families, by providing them with a healthy lifestyle that can improve their quality of life.
The development riders taking part in the Nedbank Tour de Tuli 2015 are:
Justice Makhale: Originally from Limpopo, Justice borrowed a friend’s bike and began riding at a young age. In his community, cycling was not really considered a sport, so it was only in 2003, when he moved to Pretoria, that he began to get more involved in mountain biking. A combination of willpower and a tenacious spirit to make a name for himself saw him quickly recognised by people in the cycling fraternity, who organised him a bicycle and put him into a team to start riding professionally. In his career, he has participated in several major races, including representing South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in 2006. “When I started cycling, my goal was to climb the ladder all the way to the top, but then afterwards climb back down again to where my people are, so that I can share with them what cycling is all about. My aim is to get more people into the sport and help to change their lives,” says Justice.
Rosalia Kubjana: Rosalia started cycling as a young girl in 2005, when she was one of only a handful of females who took part of in a Diepsloot cycling programme, where she was taught how to ride and fix bicycles. From the very beginning, her determination to cycle her heart out at every opportunity saw her regularly leaving male competitors in the dust. Her goal is to represent South Africa in international races and eventually become the best female rider on both road and mountain biking. She is the only development rider who has some idea of what is in store for her, as she took part in the first Tour de Tuli – Tuli to Pafuri event in 2008. “Knowing what to expect means I’m not too nervous and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to meet new people and experience wildlife and the wide open spaces,” says Rozalia.
Tshepo Tlou: From Middelburg in Mpumalanga, Tshepo started cycling with friends from his community before moving to Pretoria to take a job in a bike shop. It was there that he heard about the Exxaro Academy and met Justice, who took him on. Originally a road cyclist, he was quickly won over by mountain biking and loves the opportunity to be out in nature. Cycling has also given him the opportunity to give back, including Exxaro’s “Kids on Bikes” project, which was launched at a junior school in Lephalele. The initiative aims to promote and establish mountain biking as a sport in historically disadvantaged junior and secondary schools, opening doors for learners to participate in races, by giving them access to bicycles, equipment and training providing they get good results at school. “Building people and helping them to achieve their dreams is my main goal. For me, it’s not about being successful as an individual, I want all of us to be at the top,” says Tshepo.
Phillimon Sabona: Cycling is in Phillimon’s blood, with a brother who is one of South Africa’s first professional black professional road cyclists. Born in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, Phillimon started riding a road bike back in 2006. While it took him a while to get used to the strength and skills needed for mountain biking, over the years he has participated in some of the country’s biggest events and consistently ranked high, including the Sabie Experience and the Absa Cape Epic. He has also cycled internationally in the Transalp Challenge. “I am really looking forward to being able to ride with no pressure on my shoulders – most of the races I’ve done I’ve had to ride flat-out, so I can’t wait to just be able to enjoy myself,” says Phillimon. His main goal for the future is to find new young riders to support and encourage in their journey towards professional cycling.
“We are particularly looking forward to being able to interact with the communities along the Tour de Tuli route. It is our hope that we can become role models for them, and that when they see us on mountain bikes, they are inspired to do the same and fulfil their own dreams”, says Exxaro MTB Academy Team Captain, Justice Makhale.