RMB Change a Life Academy mountain biking star John Ntuli backed up his record BSi Steel dusi2c third place - which he clinched with partner Ndumiso Dontso - with an impressive top ten finish in the recent 60km Illovo Marathon, the feature race of the 2014 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge. // Photo credit: Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

Dreyer, no stranger to the Valley of a Thousand Hills having won both the iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon and the Non Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon seven times respectively, singled out the recent BSi Steel dusi2c as a vital event in growing the academy as well as receiving the recognition the riders deserve following a lot of hard work and dedication.

"The Dusi valley is always special for me, personally, because it is a place where I got a little bit of recognition as a paddler,” the Dusi Duke mentioned. “More importantly from the academy's point of view though, it is also special because the RMB Change a Life team operates in the Valley of a Thousand Hills with the team house being down there, so in the dusi2c the guys are basically riding on their own trails and in their own backyard.”

"This makes it so close to home and during the dusi2c the guys' parents were out there, seeing this race progress through the valley and that just made them believe in what the academy members are doing because the race gives their efforts a sense of reality within the community.

"The locals see such a big race with huge amounts of cyclists and that adds great impetus to the project.”

The combination of RMB Change a Life team coach John Ntuli and youngster Ndumiso Dontso who made history when they became the first black pair to claim a podium in a stage race in South Africa when they finished in third place overall at this year’s two-day event from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban.

"It is just fantastic to get a podium; you get a lot more recognition than if you are in fourth place and you're treated to some prize money!

"It is a competitive stage race over two days and it is great for the academy, for the valley and even for the whole country to see these riders coming through the ranks.

"We also finished with a total of three teams in the top 10 which is lovely and it gives everyone a warm feeling when they walk away from the race but it also makes the sponsors exceptionally proud,” a satisfied Dreyer commented.

John Ntuli is the most experienced rider on the Change a Life team and he and Dreyer have been together for over four years which has allowed Dreyer to observe Ntuli’s career blossom from a solid multi-sport athlete into a renowned mountain biker.

"John Ntuli definitely leads by example and has been an absolute pleasure to mentor.

"He started more from a multi-sport point of view and he and I did the Cape Epic together in 2012 and finished 54th overall, so he was due to get some good results on the bike and is now reaping the benefits of a lot of hard work and discipline with his training.

"Some of the younger guys are now giving John a proper working over if the ride is not too long, between 40 and 60 kilometres and it's great to see the youngsters starting to make their way through the ranks as well.

"The guys look up to John as a role model though and when they see him performing, they know that they can do the same,” Dreyer mentioned.

Dreyer maintains that the social skills that his riders pick up during stage events such as the BSi Steel dusi2c are vital in helping them to develop relationships outside of their community and mingle with people that they would normally never associate with.

"There is a lot more to stage racing. It is not all about racing, like it is with one day races. The dusi2c and other stage races are also about interacting with the other competitors in the race village at night.

“The BSi Steel dusi2c provides that exact chance!

"Guys from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and guys who own multi-million rand companies all come together in an environment where everyone is equal and you sit at the same table and eat the same food.

"Part of my vision for the RMB Change a Life Academy is to get my academy guys to guide people through the Valley of a Thousand Hills and the interaction required during these stage races means their social skills improve tremendously as well,” Dreyer concluded.

Sunday's 60km Illovo Marathon, the feature race of the 2014 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, once again provided the RMB Change a Life Academy with a chance to shine and it was Ntuli who stood out amongst the pack as he registered a memorable ninth place finish amidst a classy elite men's field.

Ntuli produced a solid ride to finish inside the top 10 in a race that was eventually won by Kargo Pro MTB team ace and current South African Cross Country champion Rourke Croeser with Trek South Africa's Brendon Davids in hot pursuit and FedGroup ITEC's Max Knox in a close third.

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