The organisers of Botswana’s premier mountain bike race, the Kalahari Challenge, are hopeful the race can now grow to be among the top three mountain bike events in the Southern Africa region within the next few years. This follows the race’s acquisition of new sponsors, among them Gem Diamonds Botswana, Stanbic Bank Botswana, Spar Botswana and the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO). The four sponsors were unveiled during a launch at the Phakalane Golf Resort this past week. After years of toiling to find new title sponsors following the loss of Subaru, who were the title sponsors, the race organisers say the race will now be renamed Gem Diamonds Kalahari Challenge, following the unveiling of the company as the race’s new title sponsor.
Though no amount has been availed, the new title sponsor, Gem Diamonds, is said to be putting in hundreds of thousands of pula sponsorship to elevate the event into the most prestigious in the country. Officially unveiling the sponsorship, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gem Diamonds, Clifford Elphick, announced that the company has entered into a three year sponsorship deal with the race. He said as Gem Diamonds, they are always on the lookout for community projects to work with and have identified the race as one project they could be involved with. During the time of the sponsorship, Elphick said Gem Diamonds will put in ‘seed capital,’ which they hope will grow the race. “Our partnership is focused on enhancing every aspect of this world-class stage race from the route to the organisation, facilities and accommodation,” Elphick announced.
According to the race organisers, with the cash sponsorship windfall, the race will now be the highest prized event in the country, with at least P100 000 going towards prize monies.
Though the sponsorship has been described as quite substantial, the race organisers say most of the sponsorship money will go towards the administration of the race. Meanwhile, the race has also welcomed Stanbic Bank who will partner with them in their Community Support Programme, which is aimed at improving the lives of the communities hosting the Kalahari Challenge. According to Stanbic Bank Botswana’s Marketing and Public Relations Officer, Ruth Modisane, as a partner in this initiative, Stanbic Bank will support the programme by upgrading and expanding existing facilities at Lekgolobotlo Clinic. She said with the bank having done a charity cycling event, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Charity Ride in 2013 to raise money for charity, they did not need much persuasion to be involved as partners. She said the bank prides itself in ‘promoting healthy living,’ hence their involvement in Kalahari Challenge’s Community Support Programme.
Among the new improvements in this year’s race will be the ‘chill zone,’ which will be sponsored by Spar Botswana. According to Spar Botswana Events Manager Retha Ingenbleek, ‘this sponsorship will ensure that the riders will have access to a one of a kind “Chill Zone” where every post race need will be catered for, from recovery to relaxation.’ The SPAR Botswana “Chill Zone” will be fully stocked with tasty snacks, cash bar, free WIFI & DSTV allowing riders to share their experiences with other riders and with friends and family at home.
Another sponsor, BTO, on the other hand is expected to help with the provision of accommodation and camping zones. Speaking in an interview, the Gem Diamonds Kalahari Challenge Race Director, Seamus O’Neill said the cumulative sponsorship value of the race is estimated at around P1, 5 million. For this year, he said they will be expecting at least 250 cyclists but the organisers are expecting to grow the number to 500 in the next three years.
He however said as a measure to keep the race exclusive and cyclist value oriented, they do not want to pass the 500 cyclist participation. “We want to keep this race exclusive and would like everyone competing in it to take home some precious memories. We therefore would like to ensure that the numbers of cyclists competing will be manageable so that we can give attention to all cyclists. Our intention is that in due time, we can also attract cyclists from Europe so that it gets as much popularity and exposure as possible,” O’Neill explained. The Gem Diamonds Kalahari Challenge 2015 is scheduled to take place from the 26th to the 28th of June.