The 2012 annual Kalahari Challenge was one to remember for local cyclists as they proved their worth over the two-day cycling challenge.
The local riders took podium positions in both the solo and team events to cap a memorable cycling challenge for the locals.
In the solo event, it was veteran cyclist, Nevelle van Zyl, who won the race, closely followed by race debutant, Timothy Hammond, of Francistown. After leading the race throughout the second day, Hammond was left to rue the route markings after he got lost with a few kilometers before the end of the race. The young rider, who rides in the South African series, led throughout the day’s race but got lost at Mokolodi, and van Zyl pounced on the opportunity to win the race.
Speaking after his win, van Zyl conceded that luck was on his side during the day.
“I was very lucky today. The young guy who came second was leading the race and when he got lost at Mokolodi, I got the break and won the race,” van Zyl said.
While happy at his showing, the veteran rider said he would have been even more excited if there were more competitive riders, more especially the SafariSimbaz of Kenya who won last year’s event as he would have liked to see how he would have measured against them.
For his part, Hammond, who was making his debut in the annual race, expressed pleasure at his showing, saying it gave him a much needed workout before he can head back for an invitational race in South Africa in the coming week before competing again in the South African cup series.
Concerning the organization of the race and how the race measures to those in South Africa, the young rider said while the race organization is very good, the only let down were the route markings, saying they were too low to see, something which partly got him lost.
He however said the race was difficult and needed much more stamina, saying competitors in the local race have no time to take a breather during the competition.
“This race’s course, unlike in South Africa, is flat and as a rider you are compelled to pedal throughout the competition. In South Africa, you have climbs and when you descend you can catch a breather,” the young cyclist said.
Asked about the local riders, Hammond said he was impressed with local cyclists.
“They can compete but I think it is time for Botswana to have its own cycling series to get them to compete regularly,” Hammond said.
In the teams’ category, Botswana’s pair of Jabu Tabulane and Tumisang Ramasankate arrived first on the last day to win the team race. After winning the first day on Saturday, the duo capped off their impressive day by winning the second day to win the team challenge.
Meanwhile, van Zyl says Botswana needs to put more money into the race to attract top riders from South Africa.
The veteran rider said while the Kalahari cycling challenge has grown tremendously over the years, sponsors are now needed to partner Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) to turn the event into a truly internationally recognized event it is capable of being.
“Over the years, we have managed to get the best of riders from Zimbabwe and Namibia to compete in this race but we are yet to get the best of South African riders. If we do get more sponsors for this challenge and the prize money increase, I am sure we can get that and turn this event into an international event,” van Zyl said.
The veteran rider, who was pleased at the showing of young riders including the pair of Tabulane and Ramasankate who came first in the teams’ category, said there is potential in the country to have competitive riders. With cycling being an Olympic sport, van Zyl said the newly formed Botswana Cycling Association (BCA) is busy trying to establish a cycling series, which he believes will go a long way in helping build the sport in the country.