Behind the Bike with Petru Ebersohn, Tour de Tuli Cyclist Leader

Jun 27, 2016 People of Wilderness
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The Nedbank Tour de Tuli run by Tour de Wilderness and supported by Wilderness Safaris will take place from 28 July to 2 August 2016. We have a dedicated team running the Tour to ensure that everything that can be thought of is included to make this one of the most spectacular mountain bike rides in Africa, if not the world!

The thrilling multi-stage mountain bike event (not a race!) takes place through remote wildlife areas in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

With the starting day fast approaching I decided to catch up with a few of our riders, leaders and volunteers, beginning with cycle leader Petru Ebersohn.

Read our interview below to find out about Petru’s role as a female cyclist leader on this year’s Tour.

How did you get involved as a cycle leader?

My husband cycles and I wanted to be able to join him on his rides. I used to be a runner but after a running injury I decided to try cycling instead.

I started working at Wilderness Safaris in the May of 2014. Nicola Harris, Director of the Tour, had heard that I was a cyclist and when one of her team leaders fell sick she asked if I would be able to stand in. I rode my first Tour with Alistair Bassett of Cycle Mashatu, Alistair has wildlife experience and is a strong cyclist. We are riding together again this year and I think we make a strong team!

What in your opinion is the most challenging part of being a cycle leader?

An unprepared rider. When someone is unprepared it falls to the leader to help them along each day and push them to the end. You don’t want to be the one holding up the group, so it is important to train.

The Tour is as much about cycling as it is hosting. The challenge is to make sure that everyone is well looked after and that they are having a good time.

It’s important to make sure that everyone in the group has everything that they need for the day’s cycle. We had an incident where one rider forgot his passport – he realised that he had left it after we had ridden along in thick sand for about 15 km! Allistair returned to the camp to collect the passport while I continued with the group.

Most memorable day of the event for you?

The last day at Mapungubwe. We had one final climb on the way to get to our final stop. At this stage, everyone is tired – it was therefore an incredible feeling when we all reached the top after a long day in the sun. It’s hard to explain the amazing feeling that you have at the end of the ride (we also had a wild party that night!)

Petru and members of her group at Mapungubwe – their final stop of the four-day Tour

Your highlights?

The amazing places that you get to ride and being able to see the differences in the countries. I was amazed to see how clean Zimbabwe is – also, moving from the green grasses and trees of Botswana to completely different landscapes at each campsite that we stayed at. It’s also amazing to see the camp set-ups – the team does an incredible job of erecting beautiful tents where once there was nothing.

The highlight of each day must be the tea stop run by Janet Wilkinson – you look forward to it and the many delights such as shortbread, fruit cake and biltong.

Do you have a favourite camp?

Yes, it must be Nottingham Farm on day two of the Tour. The elephants at the camp are out of this world! The orange farmer who owns the property leaves out leftover oranges that the elephants feed on – he does this to stop them from eating the oranges that he sells. It is a highlight to sit atop the rocky crevices and watch the elephants feeding below and to look out at the view that stretches to the Limpopo and beyond.

The elephants of Nottingham Farm – a mindblowing experience

Complete this sentence: You should ride the Tour if you…

…Love being outdoors, love riding a bike and love being in nature (you must train a bit though). If you have a passion for nature, you must do it.

What is camp life like once you have put your bike away for the day?

There is no other stage event that can compare to Tuli. Everything is done for you! The food is the same as a five-star hotel and is beautifully prepared (you gain weight on this event!). The tents are big and comfortable. After your ride you can go for a massage, there is a bike repair team and medics on site to help.

Petru and Alistair's cycling group – Nedbank Tour de Tuli 2015

If you don’t experience it for yourself, you can’t comprehend just how special it is.

What theme song would you choose to ride to in this year’s Tour?

Hold Back the River By James Bay… Listen to the clip below!

What excites you most about this year’s ride?

It’s not one part that excites me but the whole experience – meeting new people, crossing wild places on your bike and the feeling of being on top of the world! I cannot wait.

Training, how much do you do and where do you train?

I train at home on my road bike. My husband (also a cycle leader on the Tour) and I get up at 4.30 am each day to ride. This is our quality time together before the world gets hold of us. We usually cycle on roads near our home in Pretoria. I am also fortunate to be part of a running group at the Wilderness office and run during our lunch break (this helps keep me fit). I take my mountain bike out on weekends.

Any advice to new riders on the Tour?

  • Spend enough hours in the saddle to prepare for the long days
  • Pack sunscreen and a lot of it
  • It’s not a race, enjoy it

Petru's very stylish nails in support of the Tour and Children in the Wilderness – Nedbank Tour de Tuli 2015

Most rewarding part of the Tour?

Meeting the kids when you hand over the backpacks with stationery for them at the local school in Zimbabwe. The children are wonderfully mannered and show so much gratitude.

It’s particularly special to see the difference that Children in the Wilderness has made to the lives of children living in rural wilderness areas.

It is the understanding that as a collective we can make a big difference to people’s lives. Click here to find out more about Children in the Wilderness and the Nedbank Tour de Tuli.

Pictures courtesy of Petru Ebersohn.

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By Kate Collins

Kate grew up exploring the bushveld on her family rose farm, living among Nguni cattle, geese, warthogs, ostriches and horses. After completing an Honours degree at the University of Cape Town, Kate began working at Wild magazine as a journalist and as the Digital Editor of the Wild Card website. Kate has travelled to destinations throughout southern Africa, enjoying the many rich offerings of our country. Her work at Wild magazine helped secure her next move to Londolozi Game Reserve where she worked in their Creative team managing online communications and assisting guests with their wildlife photography. Kate now lives in Johannesburg and is proud to be a part of Wilderness Safaris in her role as copywriter. “I am very excited to work for a company that makes such a huge difference to people’s lives and to the wild places throughout our incredibly beautiful and diverse continent.”

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