While a World Cup race attracts the best in the world to compete against each other for medals and UCI points, hosting the fourth round of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Pietermaritzburg has offered keen South African Para-cyclists the chance to test themselves against the elite in their fields. Considered fledglings to the sport of handcycle racing, Simon Makgobela and Palesa Manaleng are two such local riders relishing the opportunity to test their abilities against their peers come the weekend of 11-13 September in KwaZulu-Natal. Makgobela’s life changed in 2002.
He says: ‘At that moment, I lost everything and had to start my life again from scratch. I would use a normal wheelchair to get around and started racing myself on it.’ The 29-year old has been riding a hand cycle since 2012 when esteemed cyclist Hilary Lewis introduced him to the sport. Lewis, who has represented South Africa on many occasions, explained how the hand cycle worked and Makgobela’s interest grew even more when Andries Scheepers lent him a bike.
Makgobela says: ‘I competed in a TT event in Joburg and I really liked it. Instead of doing three laps, I just kept on going because I was having so much fun. I was trying very hard to follow Andries, and I have been training hard to ride faster.’ Earlier this year, Makgobela was entered into rounds one and two of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Italy and Switzerland, and he was generously supported by grant funding received from the Department of Sport and Recreation. This process of developing Makgobela is being facilitated by Cycling South Africa.
Cycling SA Para-Cycling Commission Director Dr Mike Burns says: ‘I’m ready for the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg but I’m not as strong as the others. It will take me time to get there and I’m doing very well – I’m trying my best. The investment in Simon by Sport and Recreation South Africa has paid huge dividends in terms of fast-tracking the development and competitive ability of this talented rider. It was rewarding to note the respect that was afforded him by the international community of riders with whom he recently engaged in Italy and Switzerland. Simon will be returning to the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport to complete the high performance programme that has been developed for him.’ Makgobela’s message to those who are in a similar situation to him is simple. He says: ‘You must not say that it’s the end of the road. Be strong, God is in you and you are still a human being. You can do anything that you put your mind to.’
An even newer kid on the block, Manaleng encountered a life changing experience when the brakes on her bicycle failed, forcing her to ride into a pavement at quite a high speed. The crash resulted in a punctured lung, two broken ribs, hitting her head hard, but it was the dislocated spine that caused the most damage. As a paraplegic, Manaleng mobilises herself with only her arms.
Primedia currently assists the 28-year-old in collecting her from her home and taking her to a place to ride on one day each week in Gauteng. When asked what keeps her motivated, Manaleng said: ‘Being alive, and doing what I love doing.’ The 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup – Pietermaritzburg (11-13 September 2015) will have two competition venues with the time trial competition being staged in the Midmar Dam complex on Friday 11 September and the road races in the city of Pietermaritzburg using Alexandra Park as the official competition venue on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 September.