Tendani Mahole and Tsepo Nyirenda of the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy.

One of the strongest riders at the DMA, Nyirenda’s inspirational story started earlier this year when he was selected to join Team Absa for the 2014 Absa Cape Epic (ACE) as a replacement for an injured rider. Unemployed at the time, it was possible for him to make the trip at short notice. In spite of it being his first stage race, he successfully completed the event with the support of fellow DMA rider and Team Absa teammate, William Mokgopo.

“The most important thing I learnt at the Absa Cape Epic is to believe in yourself,” he says. “When you see a big hill ahead, you must tell yourself that you can do it, and just keep pushing until you finish.”

The experience would prove to be the beginning of a life-changing journey. At the ACE, Nyirenda met David Higgs, executive chef of the Saxon Hotel, and the two spent much time riding alongside each other during the race. Passionate about his occupation, Higgs soon discovered Nyirenda’s shared love for cooking and invited him to visit his kitchen after the race. Both Nyirenda and fellow DMA graduate, Tendani Mahole, have since been awarded apprenticeships at the hotel.

A senior captain at the DMA, Nyirenda still cycles and trains with the kids over the weekends. “It is very important to me that the boys keep cycling at the DMA. Their peers and the younger children there must see that there is the potential of a real future for themselves and that anything is possible if they are willing to work for it,” says Higgs.

Being mentored by Higgs both on and off the bike, Tsepo and Tendani will tackle a series of MTB stage-races together. They recently competed in the 36ONE Storms River Traverse where they finished 21st overall and 8th in the Men’s category. Nyirenda’s role is to mentor Mahole through the rigours of a multi-day race as they work towards competing in the 2015 Absa Cape Epic.

Next the two will be travelling to Lesotho, Nyirenda’s home country, where, accompanied by rally car driver and DMA trustee Gugu Zulu, and Olympic Rowing Gold Medallist, Sizwe Lawrence Ndlovu, they will be mentored on the behavioural intricacies of becoming a professional athlete.

“The principles of team work, sharing, and uplifting others are values we aim to instill in the members of the DMA,” says Chairman, Andrè Ross. “These two young men are an embodiment of what the DMA exists to achieve, in that, aside from cycling, we hope to empower youth in the community to pursue goals beyond their present state of awareness,” he explains. “The long term plan is for Tsepo and Tendani to qualify as professionals who can then provide employment and direction for others in their community.” Ross concludes.

“I’m learning new things every day,” enthuses Nyirenda. Looking to the not-so-distant future, he says “my goal is to have a degree in cooking and one day have my own restaurant by the beach!”