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Sizwe Mkhosibe (left) and RMB Change A Life Academy team mate Thembani Zwane (right) will be looking to exploit their knowledge of the uMsundusi and uMngeni valleys in the dusi2c MTB race.

Photo: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Change A Life pioneer Martin Dreyer, who started the project to support young paddlers aiming to excel at the Dusi Canoe Marathon, says the new mountain bike race is a logical extension of the programme, and could have a profound impact on the valley residents.

"The reality is that there is already a mountain biking ethos in the valley as the youngsters in the valley ride everywhere," says Dreyer. "I was thrilled when 'Farmer Glen' (Haw) started this race because everything he touches turns to gold, and I honestly believe that this could be start of something huge for the valley."

Dreyer pointed out that employment opportunities were almost non-existent in the valley, which resulted in many families being separated as parents sought work elsewhere.

"The dusi2c has the potential to kick-started a whole mountain biking guiding tourism industry in the valley, creating sustainable employment for these young athletes," said Dreyer.

"The guys will give 100%, as they always do, but for us it is just as important to make sure everyone has a fantastic experience in the valley, so I have told them they need to be courteous and polite and help wherever they can," Dreyer added.

Dreyer pointed out that the requirement for every team to have a map-downloadable GPS for the race had posed problems as the team could not afford to buy GPS units for each rider or team, but that the team had come with typically positive solutions to the challenge.

"They are riding the trails and learning them in the week before the race," said Dreyer.

Team captain John Ntuli, who will partner Bongumusa Zikhali for the race, said his riders had spent the week before the race learning the trails.

"This race is in our valleys so we should be at a real advantage," said Ntuli. "We have been training in the valley learning the trials. Where we are not sure we ask local kids where the guys have been cutting single track, or where the guys on motorbikes came to make the GPS routes."

Ntuli was optimistic that local knowledge would make it possible for one of their teams to race onto the podium, but said that it was probably more important to teach his riders the skills needed for multi-day team racing.

"Some of the guys have done joberg2c and sani2c, but I want to teach them about pacing and looking after your partner," said Ntuli. "So much can happen on a race like this, from punctures to getting tired, so you need to learn how to race these team races."

"We have so much talent in the valley and we plan to expand to including women in the team next year. There are great trails to ride in the area and we believe that this will help create more opportunities in the valley," said Ntuli.

"This is a long term investment from our RMB Change A Life teams taking part in the dusi2c, and we are really excited about what can follow from this," Dreyer added.

The dusi2c mountain bike race takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban onSaturday 22 and Sunday 23 June 2013. More information can be found at www.dusi2c.co.za