Gaborone Cycling Club’s cyclist, Neville Van Zyl, left the country yesterday (Saturday) for Oudtshoorn, South Africa, to compete in the annual DCM Cape Pioneer Trek race.
The six-day mountain bike race, which is considered one of the most gruelling cycling challenges, and which covers a total distance of at least 657 kilometres, starts tomorrow (Monday).
At least 500 cyclists, making 250 teams of two riders per team are expected to compete in the race.
Van Zyl, who will be the only Motswana rider to compete in the race, will team up with South African cyclist Christopher de Wet in the race. Speaking in an interview, Van Zyl, who will be making his maiden appearance at the race, said he is ready for the challenge as he has “been working a lot hard to get fit for the race”.
Asked about his ambitions at the race, Van Zyl said his intention will be to do the best he can while also enjoying the race.
“This race is one of the biggest mountain cycling events, probably one of the top three in South Africa and it’s very tough. For me, winning is not a priority though I would be happy if I could win. I will be pushing hard to finish in a good position and my target is to finish in the top ten. I will be happy if I could even finish in the top 15 in the race,” Van Zyl said.
The Gaborone Cycling Club cyclist says he has been training hard for the past few months to get himself ready for the race.
“I have been training since April/May, but this is a big challenge. Though Botswana has a lot of tough terrains, we do not have a lot of mountains and this means I have to be fit if I am to make a push in the mountainous stages of the race,” Van Zyl added. Van Zyl follows in the footsteps of other local cyclists, including, among others, Seamus O’Neill and Angus Boxshall-Smith who have competed in the race.
Commenting on the race, O’Neill, who competed in last year’s edition of the race described the race as one of the toughest, reiterating Van Zyl’s statement that while winning is always on the mind while competing, the priority for cyclists in the race is always a good finish considering the calibre of competitors in the race.
“All a cyclist needs to do is to give it all the best he can and aim to finish in the top ten. This is a very tough race with extremely tough climbing. This is made even difficult by the fact that the race takes place in the Karoo, which is very hot and windy at this time of the year,” O’Neill said. On whether local cyclists can competitively contest in the race considering the different terrains, O’Neill said it is possible, but the local riders will have to put in a lot of hard work and should be well conditioned and in good shape to compete.
“Locally, we may not have mountains but we have lots of open spaces to train on. All a local cyclist needs is to put in a lot of hours of training, at least 15 ÔÇô 20 hours a week, for at least two to three months before the race so that he can be in good shape,” he concluded.