While TIB Insurance/Thule’s Andrew Hill and Tyronne White won the overall spoils, exciting Change a Life pair Sthembiso Masango and Mboneni Ngcobo clinched an impressive seventh place in the men’s race while academy MTB captain John Ntuli and Dreyer’s wife, Jeannie clinched the mixed title en route to their top 10 overall finish.
“It was an amazing three days for the RMB Change a Life Zulus at this year’s Berg and Bush!” exclaimed Dreyer proudly.
“Their fantastic results meant their presence had a great impact on the race and with the team coming from the most basic rural lifestyle, one can only imagine what an extraordinary experience it was for them!” he added.
A solid start for the four more experienced Change a Life pairings saw only the young schoolboy combination of Siyanda Masango and Dumisani Shabalala – the youngest team in the race – pass through the second water point outside of the top twenty.
Disaster struck the pair of Bongumusa Zikhali and Ndumiso Dontso shortly afterwards though when Dontso’s rear derailler broke, leaving him unable to change gears and forcing the pair to take turns in running the bike to the finish line, eventually finishing the day in a disappointing 320th position.
In the final 20 kilometres of the stage Ngcobo paid the price for having flown out of the starting blocks. He and Masango finished eleventh on the day, one ahead of the measured mixed pair of Ntuli and Jeannie Dreyer.
“It was awesome watching our riders mixing it up at the top end of the race, improving on their positions daily with better race strategy and pacing while John & Jeannie winning the mixed race was the cherry on top!” said Dreyer.
“It was disappointing to suffer a mechanical but I knew the fighting spirit that Zikhali & Dontso have while having decided as team beforehand that quitting is not an option simplified things.”
An early start at the Emseni race village where the team was camping again saw Ngcobo get things underway with a bang and his frenetic early pace saw he and Masango summit the lung-bustingly steep Spioenkop Mountain in the blink of an eye, setting them up for a memorable fourth place finish for the stage.
Ntuli and Jeannie Dreyer had another steady day in the saddle in the mixed race and finished eleventh overall, Sipho Kupiso and Mazwi Msimango shone bright en route to their ninth place on the day and youngsters Masango and Shabalala finished inside the day’s top 30 however the stage’s real story belonged to Zikhali and Dontso.
After having Hattons Cycles rectify their first stage bike issues overnight, the pair started day two in lowly G batch however a heroic second stage effort saw them surge past no fewer than 298 teams to finish in an incredible 22nd on the day.
With the finish line in sight, there was an element of excitement amongst the five Change a Life teams at the start of Sunday’s final stage and it was this excitement that led to Masango and Ngcobo surging to a historic third stage podium place while Ntuli and Jeannie Dreyer wracked things up a notch in the mixed race to finish the day eighth overall and claim the category’s top honours.
Sadly a stomach bug for Kupiso saw he and Msimango a little off the pace in the final day’s action, finishing the day sixteenth but bravely hanging on to twelfth place on the general classification while two tough days of racing also got the better of young Shabalala in the bouts’ third round.
Buoyed by their efforts the day before, Zikhali and Dontso again proved just what they are capable of when they surged from their C batch start to claim fifteenth on the day, leaving many wondering just what could have been had it not been for their early troubles.
Dreyer commended the Berg & Bush for putting on a world class event with arguably South Africa's best single track while he also thanked them for support of the team.
More info can be found at www.martindreyeracademy.com.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – RMB CHANGE A LIFE MTB ACADEMY
1.TIB Insurance/Thule (Andrew Hill/Tyronne White) 9:19.53
2.Midlands Men (Bradley Stroberg /Tyron Bird) 9:23.34
3.Team Europcar (Sean Henderson/Nic White) 9:51.16
4.Cyclelab Sub Vets (David de Lima/Angus Alexander) 9:55.52
5.Boys on BMC (Justin Porteous/Craig Uria) 10:02.04
6.Prominent Paints (Deon Kruger/Fred Buter)10:05.58
7.RMB Change a Life 2 (Sthembiso Masango/Mboneni Ngcobo) 10:10.44
8.MTB Goats (Dylan Joseph /David Walsh) 10:14.56
9.Cycle World (Francois Oosthuizen/Jean Fourie) 10:23.11
10.RMB Change a Life (John Ntuli/Jeannie Dreyer) 10:30.16
12.RMB Change a Life 3 (Sipho Kupiso/Mazwi Msimango)
36.RMB Change a Life 4 (Siyanda Masango/Dumisani Shabalala) 11:49.02
75.RMB Change a Life 1 (Bongumusa Zikhali/Ndumiso Dontso) 12:39.12
1.RMB Change a Life (John Ntuli/Jeannie Dreyer) 10:30.16