Khupi Kobe and Tovhawani of Team Exxaro RMB Academy 2 during stage 1 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Citrusdal, South Africa on the 18 March 2013.

Photo by Kelvin Trautman/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

The Exxaro academy riders immediately dispelled any notion that they might simply be pleased to ride the Absa Cape Epic when three of the nine teams finished among the top 100 in the very competitive category for elite men in the first year.

Twenty-four riders in twelve teams, all hoping to wear the Exxaro Development jersey on the podium at the end of the race are competing in the category for elite men in 2013. Azukile Simayile and Siphosenkosi Madolo, riding as Exxaro/RMB – Academy 1, were the winners of the inaugural Exxaro Development Jersey. These two joined the academy after coming up through the Stellenbosch-based Songo.info group and they do not intend to relinquish that jersey without a big fight.

Because the riders have competed just to be at the event, most of them agree that the biggest challenge is likely to come from three teams:

  • Prince Maseko and Phillimon Sebona, riding as Exxaro/PwC – Academy 1,
  • William Mokgopo and Luke Mashiane riding as Exxaro/Deutsche Bank – Academy 1 and
  • Jan Motshioa and Thokozani Mahlangu racing as Exxaro/Accenture – Academy.

Other rides in the Exxaro squad are:

  • Lucky Mlangeni and Nare Manamela (Exxaro/Standard Bank – Academy 1)
  • Siyabonga Njiva and Rilamulele Gadabeni (Exxaro/Tronox – Academy)
  • Thomas Sokhalengane and Thabiso Komape (Exxaro/Nedbank Capital – Academy 1)
  • Khupi Kobe and Tovhawani Mavundavhi (Exxaro/RMB – Academy 2)
  • Johnny Taueatoala and Tony Ramatladi (Exxaro/Nedbank Capital – Academy 2)
  • Moses Letsoalo and Clement Mabula (Exxaro/Standard Bank – Academy 2)
  • William Lubambo & Dumisani Mahlangu (Exxaro/PeptoSport – Academy)
  • Rozalia Kubwana and Alisha Myers riding as the first Exxaro Academy Women’s Development team to participate in the Absa Cape Epic. They will race as Exxaro/PwC – Academy 2.

The team names also reflect the partners of the Exxaro Academy and out in the field these riders can count on some support from a further seven teams consisting of senior Exxaro managers teamed up with regional organisers of academy activities and their business partners.

Despite being one of the strongest riders in the team, the race was over almost before it began for Prince Maseko last year, as he fell and broke his wrist during the prologue. He was clearly relieved when he walked out of the finish chute unscathed this morning, gesturing thumbs-up and saying: “It was great. Now I’m ready for Citrusdal!” Prince was riding with Exxaro MTB Academy team captain, Justice Makhale last year, and you can’t blame Justice for feeling as if he is a little bit jinxed after his partner for this year also failed to finish the prologue. Lawrence Ndlovu is usually full of energy, but he has been ill and everyone agrees that he has not been himself for the last couple of days.

Bad news for Justice is good news for Rozalia Kubwana and Alisha Myers, as he will now ride to support them. “It will be a bit slower than I was planning to go, but it really is important for us to make sure we get them to Lourensford” says Justice. Upon reflection he agrees that a couple of crashes and a broken derailleur on the first nervous day is not a bad result at all when you have thirteen development teams to nurture.