Manders and Swanepoel met in Worcester at a school for the blind. Manders was born blind, while Swanepoel lost his sight at the age of three due to glaucoma. Both riders first started road cycling before switching to mountain biking.

Seen here (front left) Theo Coetzee, (back left) Dan Manders, (front right) Cecile Coetzee and (back right) Morne Swanepoel at the 35km FNB Magalies Monster Mountain Bike Classic in 2016. Photo Credit: Jetline Action Photo

“I started mountain biking with a friend, Theo Coetzee, about three years ago,” says Manders. “I love every minute. I love challenges, the unknown factor. You don’t know what is waiting beyond the next turn. The adrenalin really starts to flow when you hit the downhill. My first Monster was my second or third race when Theo and I first started mountain biking. Together it took us about seven hours to finish the 70km route. I’d like to see how we have improved. I’m really looking forward to the long downhill after the Monster climb. I cannot describe what it feels like to hear the cheers when you cross the finish line.”

Manders will once again attempt to conquer the Monster with his good friend Theo Coetzee. “It took me about ten years to convince Dan to mountain bike. Now he doesn’t want to do anything else,” laughs Coetzee. “The Monster is challenging and the area in which it takes place is amazing. These are two very good reasons to enter. The route is definitely more challenging when riding on a tandem mountain bike. There are a lot of sharp turns. Dan and I need to communicate the whole time when it comes to turns and low hanging branches. Due to the speed that we ride the blind rider has to be on edge the entire time. Our goal is to finish the race while enjoying the different sounds and smells on route.”

Morne Swanepoel will take on the Monster with friend and work colleague, Marius Van Lill.

According to Swanepoel, he’s been involved in tandem road cycling for several years. “Marius was a solo road cyclist. We started riding tandem road races together. One morning on our way to work the topic of mountain bike tandem racing was discussed. The rest is history.”

“For blind riders, training is not an easy task as we can’t just jump on a bike and hit the road or go to a gym,” continues Swanepoel.

“Spinning at home makes up most of my training. When it comes to maintenance, the tandem bicycles seem to take a bit more punishment than the solo bikes out on route. None the less we are extremely excited to take part in the FNB Magalies Monster MTB Classic. We entered the Monster for the mere fact that we both would like to be able to say ‘I conquered the Monster’.”