Kalahari Challenge kicks off next weekend
by Botlhale Koothupile
At least 314 cyclists are expected to grace this year’s 8th edition of the Kalahari Challenge.
The cycling event, the biggest in Botswana by far, is expected to attract cyclists from neighbouring countries like South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) partly sponsored event, which sees local and international cyclists tackle more than 180 km distance in two chilly winter days, kicks off next week Saturday.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Standard Sport, Peter Sekwale, the chairperson of the Gaborone Cycling Club (GCC), who are the race’s organizers, said they expect a very good race despite the challenges that have beset the race.
Unlike in the past years, this year’s edition will see the premier cycling event proceed without a title sponsor. This follows the pull out of title sponsors, Subaru South Africa and Subaru Botswana in 2010 and 2011, respectively, from sponsoring due to economic reasons.
Subaru South Africa pulled out after 2010 edition due to the economic meltdown at the lapse of their 5 year sponsorship contract while Subaru Botswana sponsored the event for the past year only before pulling out. Despite the drawback, Sekwale said the event will go on and is adamant that as the organizers, they will fight to find a title sponsor for the event.
“We are currently negotiating with some potential sponsors and we are hopeful that we will find a sponsor for next year’s edition,” Sekwale said.
On whether lack of title sponsors may affect the participation of cyclists, the GCC chairperson said the organizers are unfazed by the challenge, saying most of the riders come to the event ‘for the quality of the race, not the prize money.’
On the actual cycling front, uncertainty surrounds the participation of the race’s defending champions, the Safari Simbaz of Kenya. The Simbaz, who are made of the duo of David Kinjah and Davidson Kamau, are yet to find a sponsor to fly them into the country to compete.
Sekwale is, however, optimistic that the duo may still make it into the tournament, adding that they are still negotiating with Kenya Airways to sponsor the cycling pair again.
Meanwhile, BTO’s Public Relations Officer, Keitumetse Setlang, said her organization has found it fit to sponsor the race as a way to attest BTO’s ‘support for the development of tourism.
“With BTO currently moving from a safari experience that Botswana is best known for, we have seen it fit to diversify our products as such we now recognize sports tourism as an area that can economically benefit our country,” Setlang said at a press conference this past Friday.
The BTO, which is the event’s main sponsor, will cater cycling shirts and personal scarves for the event.
This year’s event will see cyclist leaving the start point at Wharic Park and passing through Mmokolodi and the villages of Manyana and Nhlanhle heading towards Ranaka before settling for the night at Lekgolobotlo. They will then ride back from the night stop back to the starting point at Wharic Park which will also serve as the finish point.