Four development riders will join the accomplished athletes and sportsmen in Team Land Rover, at this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Sizwe Mkhasibe (25) and Syanda Masango (24) will team up to compete for the Exxaro Jersey – a special jersey for developing riders who are under 26-years-old. They’ll be joined by the duo of Mboneni Ngcobo (29) and Sthembiso Masango (29), a pair of development riders who will be competing for a top 50 finish as well as the Absa African Jersey – another special jersey, this time for the fastest team with an African ID or passport. Both teams will receive full support from Team Land Rover and get to experience every aspect of this world-class event, in the same way as all other professional teams.
“Land Rover has a history of going above and beyond when it comes to giving back to the community. We do this through our association with Kingsley Holgate and the Red Cross, and now through the Absa Cape Epic as well,” said Lisa Mallett, Director of Marketing at Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa. “These four, young mountain bikers have a fantastic opportunity to shine on the world stage. They’ve got our full backing and support from the experienced members of Team Land Rover.”
Earlier this year the two development teams joined Team Land Rover at a training camp in Cape Town. This essential preparation for the Absa Cape Epic gave the four youngsters exposure to the experienced Epic veterans – including Mike Nixon, who has finished every Absa Cape Epic – as well as an opportunity to build camaraderie.
However, a race as testing as the Absa Cape Epic is not conquered through training alone. The unruffled heroes who tackle the unforgiving hills and rugged scenery of the Western Cape also need determination, strength and talent. And talented they are. The Team Land Rover development riders were identified and trained by Martin Dreyer – the 2006 Land Rover G4 Challenge winner – who runs the “Change a Life” Academy, based in the Valley of a 1,000 Hills in KwaZulu-Natal.
In 2013 Dreyer sourced affordable mountain bikes and put the call out to the rural community in the Valley, with the aim of identifying individuals with the composure and capability to join his programme. Over a few races he identified – among others – the talents of Sizwe, Syanda, Mboneni and Sthembiso.
“These guys are talented, eager and have shown real commitment during their time at the Academy. In the run-up to this year’s Absa Cape Epic, they’ve also competed in a number of tough, gruelling mountain bike races,” said Dreyer. “This is an incredible opportunity that Land Rover has given them. We’ve helped them develop their discipline, focus and self-confidence – important life skills. They’ve definitely got what it takes to tackle the world’s toughest mountain bike race.”
In addition to creating support structures for aspiring mountain bikers of the future, Martin Dreyer’s academy and Team Land Rover will also help ensure that the riders have the right equipment to tackle the near 700 kilometres of unforgiving mountain stages. This includes sponsored cycling jerseys and safety kit, logistics, and access to all amenities in the Absa Cape Epic race village – including physiotherapists and bike mechanics. Additionally, all four development riders will also have access to high-end mountain bikes that will allow their talents to flourish.
Sizwe and Syanda will cycle as Team Land Rover 7, while Mboneni and Sthembiso will represent Team Land Rover 8. Follow the progress of their mountain biking journey at this year’s Absa Cape Epic, which kicks off with the prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate on 19 March and culminates with the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate on 26 March 2017. The four development riders joined Team Land Rover at an Absa Cape Epic training camp in January this year.