The annual Cherry Festival in the South African Freestate town of Ficksburg is a popular cultural and sporting event. Mountain Bikers from all over South Africa take this opportunity to race on the fun trails and thereafter relax and enjoy all the various cherry-induced products.
For us, it is always one of our calendar highlights, as Ficksburg is one of the farming towns along the RSA/ Lesotho border. The town may be sleepy, but the competition is always hot as Ficksburg has a history of producing top cyclists, such as home-town hero Arno du Toit.
This year, though, it was our time to shine. Right from the start of the main 60km race, four riders broke away – all four of them from Lesotho, and by the 20km mark they had built a comfortable lead. The tough climbs around the halfway mark allowed Phetetso Monese to attack, but Teboho Khantsi and Paseka Makhebesela managed to claw back on the fast descents. Tumelo Makae was left behind at this point and eventually came home in 6th position.
In the last 20km, Phetetso attacked again and dropped Paseka, but Teboho displayed great determination to hang on in. For the final kilometer, the two riders were back together again.
The final sprint was fast, furious and confusing with back markers from the shorter 20km almost spoiling the party. Teboho must have been working hard on his The Sufferfest intervals and managed to edge out Phetetso by a (Token) wheel. Teboho’s winning time was 02:35:45, 12 minutes faster than last year’s winning time by Arno du Toit.
What a fitting end to the season – to see our riders on the top of the podium. It has been a year in which we have witnessed one of our team members competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It is most gratifying to see that this experience is being transferred throughout the whole team and the standard of performance has measurably increased.
Here’s looking forward to an even better 2017!