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  1. The elite men’s field at the songo.info Champions’ Race included numerous World and National champions, anchored by the 2012 Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavý (centre). Photo by Ewald Sadie. The Champions’ Race, celebrating its eighth edition this year, attracts some of the world’s best mountain bikers to an urban cross-country race in celebration of Christoph Sauser’s songo.info sport and education charity. The 2018 race boasted the most illustrious field yet; as the start ranks were swollen by cross-country specialists who had remained in Stellenbosch for warm weather training after the Mountain Bike World Cup event and the traditional crème de la crème of the Absa Cape Epic field. Annika Langvad, the World Marathon champion, repeated her win over, French champion, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot from the UCI MTB World Cup event at the songo.info Champions’ Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The start list included Jaroslav Kulhavý, Sam Gaze, Simon Andreassen, Howard Grotts, Victor Koretzky, Matthias Stirnemann, Maxime Marotte, Nicola Rohrbach, Andri Frischknecht, Daniel Geismayr, Annika Langvad, Kate Courtney, Julie Bresset, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Esther Süss, Flora Duffy, Ariane Lüthi, Alessandra Keller, Kathrin Stirnemann, Hélène Clauzel and of course the charity’s co-founder Christoph Sauser; among the over fifty riders who contested the elite men’s and women’s races. The spectators gathered on the Kayamandi sports’ fields to watch the action unfold also included a star name or two, including Julien Absalon and Bart Brentjens. Annika Langvad, representing Investec-songo-Specialized, rode home the comfortable winner of the 2018 songo.info Champions’ Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The action kicked off with an age group race for the future champions and young Luca Wiese and Andrea Schofman bravely lined up alongside the under 18 boys. The pair showed the grit and determination they will surely require to forge a career in competitive mountain biking to claim the under 14 boys and under 18 girls titles respectively. The under 18 boys race was a helter-skelter affair, from which Swiss rider Silas Valaulta emerged victorious over Nielse Erik and the talented youngest brother from the prolific junior race winning Penfold family, Aiden. Sam Gaze repeated his World Cup winning performance from Saturday at Wednesday’s songo.info Champions’ Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The elite women’s race featured a chance for Pauline Ferrand-Prévot to rekindle her rivalry with Annika Langvad and the French champion was clearly eager to settle the scores after her second position on Saturday as she set the early pace. The Danish champion was not phased however and shadowed Ferrand-Prévot until the repeated toll of ascending the steep embankment climb, dubbed the Alpe d'Huez of Kayamandi by commentator Paul Valstar, at maximum intensity saw Ferrand-Prévot drop back through the field. Langvad then went about establishing a lead over the chasing pack, where her Investec-songo-Specialized Absa Cape Epic partner Kate Courtney was locked in a tussle for second with Alessandra Keller. After half an hour of high paced racing Langvad rode home the comfortable winner, providing another ominous warning for her Cape Epic rivals, followed by Keller, Courtney, Julie Bresset and Hélène Clauzel. The elite women’s podium featuring (from left to right): Hélène Clauzel (5th), Alessandra Keller (2nd), Annika Langvad (1st), and Kate Courtney (3rd). Fifth placed Julie Bresset was absent from the photo. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The men’s race boasted a massive entry list but the brutal 4 minute lap and the 80% rule saw the field thinned out as the 40 minute long race enter the business end. A super-elite lead group formed from the opening lap and the lead changed hands between the likes of Jaroslav Kulhavý, Sam Gaze, Simon Andreassen, Maxime Marotte, Nicola Rohrbach, Andri Frischknecht, Matthias Stirnemann, Daniel Geismayr and Nielo Perrin-Ganier throughout the early stages. By the half way mark though the New Zealand champion Gaze was once again showing his form and strength stretching the field and breaking the lead group down to just five riders strung out behind him. The elite men’s podium featuring (from left to right): Daniel Geismayr (4th), Maxime Marotte (2nd), Sam Gaze (1st), Andri Frischknecht (3rd) and Howard Grotts (5th). Photo by Ewald Sadie. A huge effort, with two laps to go saw Howard Grotts bridge across to the leaders, joining Gaze, Frischnecht, Geismayr, Stirnemann and the French champion Marotte. An acceleration from Gaze then thinned the group down to five again as Stirnemann faded and as the riders started the final lap it looked as if the race might come down to a sprint. On the last assent of the Alpe d'Huez climb Gaze’s relentless pace cracked the pack one-by-one until only he and Marotte remained; but even the Frenchman could not hold on forever and on the short but brutal final climb up Kayamandi’s Mjandana Street the Kiwi made the decisive break. With some breathing room Gaze could celebrate his victory as he crossed the line, capping a highly successful South African trip for the under 23 World Champion. Candice Lill was the highest placed South African in both the men’s and women’s fields as she warmed up to compete for the inaugural Hannele Steyn African women’s trophy at the Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The attention for songo.info now turns to the Absa Cape Epic, which starts on the slopes of Table Mountain on Sunday the 18th of March. The charity will be represented by Jaroslav Kulhavý and Howard Grotts in the elite men’s race and by race favourites Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney in the elite women’s. The programme also has Sipho Madolo and Azukile Simayile contesting the Absa African Jersey; and Anrique Davids and Ntlantla Nonkasa, as well as Lwazi Ntsakaza and Sikhusele Bhungane contesting for the Exxaro jersey. The songo.info Champions’ Race also included a BMX exhibition race contested by members of the songo.info programme. Photo by Ewald Sadie. To follow the teams’ progress throughout the race follow @songoinfo on Twitter or @songoinfo on Instagram, and like songo.info on Facebook. For more information on the charity and the work they do in in Kayamandi please visit www.songo.info. Results | Future Champions U14 Boys: Luca WieseU18 Girls: Andrea Schofman U18 Boys: Silas Valaulta Results | Champions Race Women: 1. Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) 2. Alessandra Keller (Thömus/RN Racing) 3. Kate Courtney (Specialized Racing) 4. Julie Bresset (SCOTT-Breizh-VTT du Lie) 5. Hélène Clauzel (KMC-Ekoi-SR Suntour) Men: 1. Sam Gaze (Specialized Racing) 2. Maxime Marotte (Cannondale Factory Racing) 3. Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT SRAM) 4. Daniel Geismayr (Centurion Vaude) 5. Howard Grotts (Specialized Racing)
  2. A decade of building brighter futures for the children is something special to be celebrated and to commemorate the occasion songo.info will be hosting an evening to celebrate all its supporters, contributors and friends. For 10 years songo.info have been providing the children of Kayamandi with a safe place to ride their bikes and in recent years, as the charity has grown, educational support too. Photo by Etienne van Rensburg. The event – which takes place at the Dornier Wine Estate on the 6th of March – promises to be an unforgettable evening. Canapés and award winning wines will be served on the beautiful Dornier lawns, surrounded by the magnificent peaks of the Stellenbosch Mountains. The gin bar and Stellenbrau beer on tap will be sure to set the mood along with a live performance from Stellenbosch’s singer/songwriter sensation, Gerald Clark. Clark is best known for his soulful blues, has released five studio albums and has been nominated for a SAMA and an MTV Europe Animation Award. The evening’s celebrations will include an exciting live and silent auction of a number of special and unique items kindly donated by supporters of songo.info. These items include works of art by local artists, boutique/exclusive wines, sculptures, a variety of signed cycling jerseys, vouchers for weekends away, event entries and other exclusive experiences. From its humble beginnings of providing a safe space for children to play, songo.info has grown into a sport and academic support programme. Photo by Photo by Etienne van Rensburg. The songo.info commemorative 10 year anniversary cycling kit will also be revealed. The kit will make its official racing debut at the songo.info Champions Race on the 14th of March and four days later, at the start of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic, it will be worn by the riders of Team Investec-songo-Specialized. The annual Champions Race is a great source of pride for songo.info and is supported by many top class athletes enthusiastically lining up for what has become the traditional leg-loosener for the Cape Epic. It exhibits world-class talent racing through the streets of Kayamandi and attracts supporters from all communities in the area. The songo.info tenth anniversary celebrations will take place on Tuesday the 6th of March at the spectacular Dornier Wine Estate. Photo by Dornier Wines. In addition, the custom painted songo.info Specialized S-Works Epic mountain bikes, to be ridden by Jaroslav Kulhavý and Annika Langvad at the 2018 Cape Epic, will be revealed. Thanks to the generosity of Specialized Bicycles, these bikes will go on auction on the 26th of March to raise funds for songo.info. Stellenbosch's own Gerald Clark, an internationally acclaimed blues singer/songwriter, will be performing at the songo.info anniversary celebrations. Photo by Henry Engelbrecht. Sustainability is key to the success of any charity organisation. It is with this in mind that songo.info welcomes all its supporters and friends to join the celebration and support the exciting fundraising initiatives to allow the organization to continue to build on its legacy for future generations. The event gets underway at 18:00 on Tuesday the 6th and tickets are available online, for R250, at www.quicket.co.za. For more information on songo.info and the ten year anniversary celebrations please visit www.songo.info.
  3. The bike which Jaroslav Kulhavy rode to second position at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic will be auctioned to raise funds for songo.info. Photo by Michal Cerveny. The auction opens at mid-day on Wednesday the 6th and closes at mid-day on Friday the 15th of December. Specialized Bicycles, one of the title sponsors of the Kulhavy and his partner, songo.info co-founder, Christoph Sauser’s Absa Cape Epic team – Investec-songo-Specialized – have continued their legacy of support for the songo.info programme by donating Kulhavy’s bicycle to the charity for the auction. Jaroslav Kulhavy’s custom Specialized S-Works Epic WC is going under the virtual hammer, on www.songo.info, from the 6th to the 15th of December to raise funds for the songo.info charity. Photo by Michal Cerveny. The bike itself is one of only two such machines in the world, custom built to Kulhavy’s exacting standards for the world’s toughest mountain bike race. Based on the race proven Epic platform, Kulhavy’s large frame size bicycle is the S-Works World Cup incarnation. Though the S-Works Epic remains arguably the best marathon and stage racing bicycle on the market, with its ultra-efficient pedalling platform aided by the brain suspension technology – front and rear – and the ability to carry two bottles in addition to the integrated SWAT storage system in the main triangle, this particular bike’s party piece is the custom paint job. The bike features an Investec Asset Management and songo.info World Champion’s inspired custom paintjob. Photo by Michal Cerveny. The paintwork incorporates not only songo.info’s World Champion inspired rainbow livery but also the iconic zebra stripes of Investec Asset Management. The high gloss black sections of the frame feature a rainbow flecking effect, which adds an additional eye catching detail; which one only notices on closer inspection. Providing inspiration for Kulhavy, Sauser and the bicycle’s next owner are the names of some of the children within the songo.info programme. This serves as a reminder that Kulhavy and Sauser were racing for a greater cause at the Absa Cape Epic and that the funds raised through the sale of the bike will go directly to improving the lives of children in one of the Western Cape’s most impoverished communities. Christoph Sauser, the co-founder of songo.info and five time Absa Cape Epic winner, poses for a photo with 2012 Olympic mountain biking champion and Investec-songo-Specialized teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy after completing the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Michal Cerveny. As one would expect Kulhavy’s S-Works Epic is completed with only the finest components. Bumps in the trail are soaked up by a custom tuned Fox rear shock, which is incorporated with Specialized’s Mini Brain, and a RockShox SID WC fork with Brain Cartridge. The patented brain technology makes use of an inertia valve to lock the suspension from forces traveling from the rider downwards through the suspension, but keeps it open to absorb forces traveling upwards from the ground into the bicycle. This makes the bicycle as rigid as a hardtail when pedalling but as compliant as a mid-travel bike when descending. Propulsion is taken care of by a SRAM XX1 Eagle drive train, while the stopping power is provided by a set of eye catching yellow Magura MT8 Raceline brakes. The bike rolls on Roval Control SL 29 carbon wheels, shod with Specialized Renegade tyres crafted from the Gripton rubber compound. Kulhavy’s steed is rounded off with an S-Works finishing kit of stem, bar, seatpost and Power saddle, and features the friction free CeramicSpeed bearings in the headset and bottom bracket. Auction details: The songo.info 2017 Specialized Bicycle auction opens at 12:00 on Wednesday the 6th of December and closes at 12:00 on Friday the 15th of December. All bids are placed online via the songo.info website which can be done by clicking here, or by visiting www.songo.info and clicking on the ‘Events’ tab. A reserve price of R60 000 has been set. Update 7/12/17: The songo.info bike auction has unfortunately been subjected to a number of fake bids overnight which left the highest bid being listed at a rather ridiculous 9 Million Rand. Though songo.info could quite obviously make fantastic use of that amount of money if it was a legitimate bid the system is set up to list the highest bid and thus the fake bids are dissuading genuine bidders from supporting the programme by attempting to purchase Jaroslav Kulhavý’s custom Specialized S-Works Epic bicycle.The fake bids have now been removed and the auction is live again, the current highest bid is R80 500. songo.info will continue to monitor the bidding to ensure that fake bids are identified and removed. Kath Crabbe and the songo.info team would greatly appreciate it if you would be so kind as to repost on your social media channels about the auction and call for your followers to please only make legitimate bids. The funds raised by the auction go directly to supporting the songo.info education and sports programmes in Kayamandi and without fund raisers like this the charity would not be able to continue it’s good work. Thank you for your assistance and your support of the songo.info programme.
  4. Sauser's Cape Epic steed had a custom paint job with an oil and sparkle finish. Other details include the Songo.info colours in the Specialized branding on the down tube and the names of the children from the Songo.info programme. Blue Supacaz Siliconez grips add a splash of colour to the cockpit. Specialized Renegade lightweight XC tyres on a Roval Control SL 29 wheelset get everything rolling. Magura MT8 Carbon brakes provide the stopping force required. Sauser's bike is kitted out with SRAM's 12 speed XX1 Eagle drivetrain, equipped with a 36T Rotor Q-Rings chain ring and Rotor Rex power meter. The bottom bracket and headset come from CeramicSpeed's catalogue. The cockpit features an SWorks carbon seatpost, handlebar, and Power saddle. Syntace provided the stem while the pedals are Look's S-Track Carbon Ti model. Specifications FrameSpecialized Epic FSRRear ShockFox/SBC Epic remote Mini Brain w/Auto SagForkRockShox SID Brain World Cup, 100 mmHeadsetCeramicSpeedStemSyntace F109HandlebarS-Works carbonGripsSupacaz SiliconezSaddleSpecialized Power SaddleSeatpostS-Works carbonBrakesMagura MT8 Carbon Brake RotorsMagura Storm SL 160 mmShifterSRAM Eagle XX1Rear DerailleurSRAM Eagle XX1CassetteSRAM Eagle XX1, 12-speed, 10-50tChainSRAM Eagle XX1CranksetRotor Q-Rings 36TPowermeterRotor RexBottom BracketCeramicSpeedRimsRoval Control SL 29HubsRoval Control SLTyresSpecialized Renegade 2.1PedalsLook S-track Carbon Ti
  5. Thando Klaas leads teammate Lorenzo Leroux up a climb during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sportograf For the 2017 Absa Cape Epic the songo.info programme was recognised as one of the official development charities. 2017 was the first year of this initiative, which will run for the 2018 and 2019 races too, and the Absa Cape Epic graciously provided three development organisations – the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy, the Change a Life Academy and songo.info – with two team entries each, to strengthen the competition in the Exxaro Development Category. Taking up those entries were the Songo-Investec 1 team of Thando Klaas and Lorenzo Leroux and the Songo-Investec 2 team of Theo Ngubane and Lwazi Ntshakaza. Klaas and Leroux had a relatively successful Epic, racing to fourth place in the Exxaro Development Category – but having held the final podium position in the class for most of the week losing out on it on the final day left them felling bittersweet about the racing experience. Ngubane and Ntshakaza meanwhile were not as successful on the time sheets but they had very different aims heading into the race. Reflecting on his Absa Cape Epic experience Ngubane said that going into the race he “was very excited and nervous, and happy to have had the opportunity to ride it. [but] since it was my first epic I really just wanted to finish it and learn how to ride it.” Lwazi Ntsakaza (left) and Theo Ngubane (right) cross a river during the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sportograf The four young riders spent most of their pre-Epic training together, with songo.info’s star rider Sipho Madolo guiding their training. Klaas relayed that they kept their training simple, “doing long rides and lot of intervals but at least two Four Passes (a popular 100 kilometre long loop starting and finishing in Stellenbosch via Grabouw and Franschhoek) per week.” The quartet also relied upon Madolo and fellow songo.info programme graduate and four time Epic finisher Azukile Simayile for advice. “Train hard and eat smart” were the key points Klaas said he took from their advice. “They also told me to expect anything at the race. Maybe it goes well and we win the Exxaro Category or maybe not because there will lot other strong riders... But it will come down to team work,” Klaas concluded. So it did for the Songo-Investec 1 team, as Klaas and Leroux struggled to match each other throughout the race. Looking back Leroux was disappointed they could not challenge for victory in the Exxaro Category, but he realises that the way they struggled to work together when one or the other was suffering was partly to blame. “My biggest lesson I learnt from the Epic was to learn to communicate and stay together as a team,” he said. If he could do it all again he would approach the stage race partnership differently. “You need to help each other. To be patient, to learn when to lead and how to talk to your partner,” he concluded. Klaas and Leroux learnt that communication during the Epic is not simply about relaying how you are feeling, but also about motivating each other. Lorenzo le Roux and Thando Klaas, of songo-Investec 1, cross the finish line at Val de Vie Estate to finish in fourth position in the Exxaro Category. Photo by Sportograf Speaking of the challenges they faced during the Absa Cape Epic Ntshakaza admitted that the biggest obstacle he faced was “to wake-up every day and race after long day the previous day. I was tired the whole week!” he confessed. Highlighting once more why experience and team work are so integral to success in the Epic. Of the four only Klaas had completed an Epic before the 2017 edition, so while they had been warned of what to expect experiencing it first-hand can still provide a shock. Riding through exhaustion and helping their teammates stay motivated were small daily victories for the songo.info riders. But ones they will carry into the 2018 Absa Cape Epic and beyond if they are once again selected by songo.info to represent the programme at the Epic. Theo Ngubane wheelies across the final finish line of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic alongside his Songo-Investec 2 teammate Lwazi Ntsakaza. Photo by Sportograf Looking ahead to the rest of 2017 the quartet all hope to spend as much time as possible on their bikes, but they have other goals too. Having finished his studies Thando Klaas is currently job hunting while Lwazi Ntshakaza and Theo Ngubane will be focusing on completing their higher education qualifications. Lorenzo Leroux, meanwhile, has already joined the job market and will be seeking to balance work and riding. At twenty two and twenty three years old, each of them is moving steadily into a phase where songo.info will no longer play a pivotal day-to-day roll in their lives. But through assisting with their post high school education and by providing the opportunity to ride the Epic the songo.info programme has helped equip them to take on the challenges of life’s next phase. Having completed the gruelling 2017 Absa Cape Epic together they know they can rely on each other; for in life, as in mountain biking stage racing, team work is vital. The songo.info charity was founded by Christoph Sauser and Songo Fipaza to uplift the children of Kayamandi, in Stellenbosch, through education and sport. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
  6. From left to right: songo.info co-founder Christoph Sauser, 2017 MTO Champions Race winners Nicola Rohrbach and Flora Duffy, and MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The action got underway with the Future Champions Races, where the boys and girls competed in under fourteen and under eighteen age groups. Both age group categories were dominated by the Penfold brothers with older brother Jamie taking the under eighteen race win over Michard Meets while his younger sibling Aiden held off Krige van der Vyfer for the under fourteen category win. In the girls categories the two young ladies brave enough to race wheel-to-wheel alongside the age group boys, Danielle Barnard and Mia de Villiers, were rewarded with prizes from Specialized as Barnard won the under fourteen girls race and de Villiers the under eighteen girls. Though they were the only female riders in their races, both out raced many of the boys and were worthy prize winners. Following hot on the heels of the age group cross-country races, for the first time at the MTO Champions Race, were the BMX races. The field was limited to a girls’ final, and two boys’ qualifiers and a final. Each race saw four riders go head-to-head with BMX World Cup commentator Max Cluer at his animated best announcing the action. In the girls’ race Milani Dingana took the win while in the boys’ race Zizo slowed on the final roller allowing Lakanya to sneak past and claim victory. 2017 MTO Champions Race winner Flora Duffy leads Ariane Lüthi through the streets of Kayamandi. Photo by Ewald Sadie. With the age group racing out the way it was the turn of the Elite Women to take to the course. And what a route it was too. Starting on the Kayamandi Sports Fields the MTO Champions race got underway with a lap of the bumpy grass rugby field before heading up the embankment towards the songo.info clubhouse, from there the route twisted into an urban XCO route cutting through the dusty streets of Kayamandi – either climbing or descending as the suburb is situated on the steep slopes of Pappagaaiberg. The final descent took the riders back down onto the sports fields before a series of u-turns, cordoned off by event fences, forced them to reduce speed and then accelerate again for the sprint down the start/finish straight. The women’s field was led out by Adelheid Morath, of Germany, before, part-time Stellenbosch resident, Bermudian Flora Duffy took to the front. Morath’s Absa Cape Epic and Team Spur partner Ariane Lüthi was the only rider to match Duffy’s relentless pace when the Xterra star started to accelerate in earnest. Lüthi had outmanoeuvred Duffy in the 2016 MTO Champions Race, but the Swiss XCM Champion could not repeat that trick this year. Having finished third and second in the previous two editions Duffy was eager to finally reach the top step of the podium. Without the stress of the Cape Epic looming ahead of her next week Duffy could afford to push a little harder than her rivals and in so doing could distance Lüthi leading into the final lap. Luthi crossed the line in second, happy with her final pre-Epic work-out, while Candice Lill was third – but not without drama as a dog wondered out into the route ahead of her on a descent, forcing her to take evasive action. Fortunately she avoided the collision and both rider and canine escaped without injury. Nicola Rohrbach powers up the steep embankment climb towards the songo.info clubhouse on his way to victory in the 2017 MTO Champions Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The Elite Men’s race featured arguably the strongest field ever for an MTO Champions Race, with 2012 Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavý anchoring the star field which also included his Absa Cape Epic partner and songo.info co-founder Christoph Sauser; along with their young Specialized teammates Simon Andreassen, and sporting the rainbow stripes of a reigning world champion, Sam Gaze. The pace was furious from the off, and the men blazed through two laps of the sports field in no time before starting the climb to the club house at the end of their third lap. The kilometre of flat but bumpy grass riding had done little to spread the field and a peloton of riders, led by Gaze jostled for position on the steep grass slope before funnelling through the event barriers and into Kayamandi’s streets and alleys. Gradually a lead group fought their way clear. Nicola Rohrbach, Gaze, Kulhavý, Andreassen, Alan Hatherly and Simon Stiebjahn jockeyed for position at the front, taking turns to hurt each other by setting a ferocious pace. Behind them American XCO Champion Howard Grotts was biding his time, getting stronger as the race wore on. The first of the leading group to drop back was Andreassen as a broken rear derailleur put pay to any hopes of defending the title he won in 2016. Then the race’s early protagonist, Gaze, was put in difficulty by Rohrbach and co. The New Zealander had crashed in training the day before and the relentless attacks were taking their toll on his battered body. Meanwhile Grotts had stealthily made his way into the lead group and was taking turns with Rohrbach to work to distance Stiebjahn, Kulhavý and Hatherly. After thirty minutes of frenetic action, cheered on by a boisterous crowd, the MTO Champions Race entered its final three laps. Rohrbach and Grotts were clear at the front, followed by Hatherly, Stiebjahn and Kulhavý. On the final lap, just as the crowd were preparing for the excitement of a sprint finish disaster struck for Grotts. His tyre washed out on a dusty berm near the top of the embankment climb, putting him on the floor for the briefest of moments, but that was all Rohrbach needed – allowing the Swiss Centurion Vaude rider to ease through the final lap and take the victory in his first outing at the MTO Champions Race. Young mountain biking fans look on while Candice Lill navigates her way to third in the 2017 MTO Champions Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie. “It was a good test for the Epic prologue, a good opener for the legs,” a happy Rohrbach remarked, as he was swamped by a crowd of young mountain bike fans eager to get a look at his prototype Felt full suspension mountain bike. Grotts recovered from his crash to claim a comfortable second and the crowd were rewarded for their enthusiasm with a sprint finish after-all, though for the third rather than first. Hatherly and Stiebjahn went shoulder to shoulder around the final u-turn, with Stiebjahn carrying more speed on a wider line and Hatherly taking the shorter inside line. The pair lunged for the line in unison, but Hatherly managed to force his front wheel slightly further ahead and was awarded the final step on the podium by the closest of margins. Speaking during the event, songo.info General Manager Kathy Crabbe said: “The MTO Champions Race is so important because we bring the world’s best riders to Kayamandi and it’s an opportunity to inspire the kids in and around their home town.” While inspiring the children of Kayamandi is a vital aim of the MTO Champions Race, the exposure which having such high profile riders taking part garners for songo.info is also key. Without raising awareness of the programme it would be impossible for songo.info to continue expanding their sports and education programmes. Stellenbosch local and long-time supporter of songo.info Erik Kleinhans in action during the 2017 MTO Champions Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie Aside from the MTO Group’s headline sponsorship of the MTO Champions Race they are also key supporters of songo.info’s education programme. But with the excitement of the wheel-to-wheel racing still palpable in the atmosphere Lawrence Polkinghorne, MTO Group CEO, was keen to focus on the success of the event rather. “We are so stoked. Such an amazing race with fantastic racing by the pros. But more importantly this is a special community with an amazing vibe, it seems almost like the whole of Kayamandi is out here supporting the event and that is the beauty of songo and why we are proud as MTO to support the charity and the event” Polkinghorne concluded after the evening’s racing was over. Though Christoph Sauser might not have secured his customary place on the MTO Champions Race podium this year he is undoubtedly in fine form leading into the Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie songo.info would like to extend their thanks to all the riders and supporters who took part in, or came out to cheer on the riders on at the MTO Champions Race. As well as take the opportunity to wish all the Absa Cape Epic competitors, who raced in the MTO Champions Race, all the best for the tough eight days of mountain biking ahead. Fans can follow the progress of Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavý, as they seek to win their sixth and third titles respectively for Investec-songo-Specialized, from the 19th to the 26th of March by following @songoinfo on Twitter or liking the songo.info Facebook page. 2017 MTO Champions Race | Selected Results Elite Women 1. Flora Duffy (Pearl Izumi | Bemuda) 2. Ariane Lüthi (Team Spur | Switzerland) 3. Candice Lill (dormakaba | South Africa) 4. Esther Süss (Meerendal CBC | Switzerland) 5. Adelheid Morath (Team Spur Germany)Elite Men 1. Nicola Rohrbach (Centurion Vaude | Switzerland) 2. Howard Grotts (Specialized | USA) 3. Alan Hatherly (Team Spur | South Africa) 4. Simon Stiebjahn (Team Bulls | Germany) 5. Jaroslav Kulhavý (Investec-songo-Specialized | Czech Republic)
  7. The festival of mountain biking which is the MTO Champions Race took place in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, on Wednesday the 15th of March. The closely contested racing saw Xterra and ITC Cross-Tri World Champion Flora Duffy claim the win in the Elite Women’s race, while Swiss star Nicola Rohrbach won the Elite Men’s race. Click here to view the article
  8. songo.info and the MTO Forestry Group’s annual MTO Champions’ Race is but a week away, and 2017 edition looks to be attracting the best ever field. The race is set to take place in Kayamandi, the community within which the songo.info charity operates, on Wednesday the 15th of March 2017. Click here to view the article
  9. Defending champion Simon Andreassen is back to take on the 2017 MTO Champions’ Race on the 15th of March. Photo by Ewald Sadie. The MTO Champions’ Race is often used as a final high intensity work-out ahead of the Absa Cape Epic, which kicks off on Sunday the 19th. While the short laps make for explosive racing, which is in stark contrast to the Cape Epic’s war of attrition a good performance in the MTO Champions’ Race has proven to be a useful final indicator of form. Christoph Sauser, Jaroslav Kulhavý, Ariane Lüthi and Annika Langvad have gone from MTO Champions’ Race victories to Cape Epic glory in the past. While many elite riders enter last minute, with registration remaining open until one hour before the various race starts, the field of confirmed riders is already highly impressive. Together they boast 12 Absa Cape Epic titles, an Olympic Gold Medal, 20 World Championship – titles across disciplines as diverse as Cross Country, Cross Country Marathon and even XTERRA – and near countless national titles. The 2016 MTO Champions’ Race women’s podium. From left to right Lawrence Polkinghorne (MTO Group CEO), Candice Lill (4th), Flora Duffy (2nd), Ariane Lüthi (1st), Annika Langvad (3rd), Vera Adrian (5th) and Christoph Sauser (co-founder songo.info). Photo by Ewald Sadie. The most decorated rider in the field is arguably Jaroslav Kulhavý. Kulhavý will be teaming up with Christoph Sauser for the Absa Cape Epic in the colours of Investec-songo-Specialized, and the Olympic Gold and Silver medallist will be keen to see his perfect record of two starts and two wins converted to three from three by the end of March. In Kulhavý’s absence for the 2016 event, young Dane, Simon Andreassen claimed the MTO Champions’ Race title. For 2017 the presence of Kulhavý on the start line makes him the clear favourite, but the likes of under 23 World Champion Sam Gaze, South Africa’s Olympian Alan Hatherly and Sauser himself will all be highly motivated to take the MTO Champions’ Race crown. Though not strictly short course specialists the presence of the entire Topeak-Ergon and Centurion-Vaude squads also adds tremendously to the depth of the men’s racing field. Daniel Geismayr, Nicola Rohrbach, Jochen Käss and Markus Kaufmann will all be lining up for the German Centurion-Vaude team. While for fellow German team Topeak-Ergon the MTO Champions’ Race is hardly new, especially with Stellenbosch resident Erik Kleinhans in their ranks. Joining Kleinhans on the start line will be Jeremiah Bishop, Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek. Flying the flag for the local teams are Waylon Woolcock (Team BCX Cycling) Nico Bell and Gawie Combrick (NAD Pro MTB) and songo.info’s very own Lwazi Ntshakaza, Theo Ngubane, Thando Klass and Lorenzo le Roux. Christoph Sauser in action during the 2016 MTO Champions’ Race. Photo by Johan Bardenhorst. The women’s race had a particularly cosmopolitan field with competitors hailing from afar afield as Bermuda and Norway. Defending champion Ariane Lüthi has endured a troubled start to 2017 on the bike, but she has made a habit of peaking to perfection for the Absa Cape Epic over the last two years so she will once again be the woman to beat in the MTO Champions’ Race. Facing up against Lüthi will be triathlete Flora Duffy, Esther Süss, Candice Lill, Vera Adriaan and Hielke Elferink. Duffy’s impressive haul of Wold Championship medals includes gold in three triathlon disciplines and she showed last year that she’s more than a match for the pure mountain bikers on the urban course through Kayamandi. Süss meanwhile will be as tenacious and tough to beat as ever, while four-time Dutch marathon champion Elferink has been staying in South Africa since the Tankwa Trek in February, so she will be no stranger to the dusty conditions which are sure to reign on the day. Aside from the men’s and women’s main events there are also Future Champions’ Races which age group riders can partake in. Under 14 and under 18 boys and girls can enter these events on the day, with registration taking place at 15:00 at the Kayamandi Sport Grounds, below the songo.info clubhouse. The entry fee is R200 per rider. Flora Duffy (front) went wheel-to-wheel with 2016 champion Ariane Lüthi (behind) for the MTO Champions’ Race victory last year, a result which the Bermudian Duffy is looking to reverse in 2017. Photo by Johan Bardenhorst. Spectators are welcome and entry is free for all spectators, though there is a R20 charge per car for secure parking. The age group racing starts at 16:00 on Wednesday the 15th of March, followed by the elite women’s racing at 17:30 and the elite men at 18:00. The action will be live-tweeted on the songo.info Twitter handle @songoinfo. For more information, including directions and information regarding parking, please visit www.songo.info. The MTO Champions’ Race features ‘Future’ Champions’ Races for boys and girls in the under 14 and under 18 age groups, these events start at 16:00. Photo by Ewald Sadie.
  10. The annual songo.info charity race, the MTO Champions’ Race, takes place on the 15th of March 2017 and will once again offer some of the best mountain bikers in the world a chance to stretch their legs ahead of the Absa Cape Epic. More importantly, though, the race will showcase the exceptional efforts of songo.info, with the assistance of the MTO Group – a fully integrated timber products and solutions provider – in uplifting the youth of Kayamandi. Click here to view the article
  11. songo.info founder and five times Absa Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser in action during the 2016 MTO Champions’ Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie The MTO Champions’ Race is vital to the charity’s calendar as Kathy Crabbe, songo.info’s General Manager, explains: “Mountain biking is traditionally a sport that is removed from impoverished communities, but with this event it brings the world’s best to our home in Kayamandi. It is a unique experience for the professional riders to race through the streets of Kayamandi but what makes it so special is that it draws the broader cycling community into the community which songo.info serves.” songo.info started as an after-school sporting charity, offering BMX riding as a way of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle to the children of Kayamandi. But the programme soon expanded to include homework sessions before bike rides and with funding from the MTO Group, amongst others, in 2016 the education programme was expanded further. MTO’s contribution has made it possible for songo.info to appoint a full time education programme co-ordinator. With the increase in education specific donations to the charity this role is vital in facilitating the implementation of programmes like the Click Foundation’s Reading Eggs, Maths tutors, a tertiary scholars’ study and intern programme, holiday activity plans and educational outings. The elite women’s race at the MTO Champions’ Race is open to all female riders, but it too boasts a stellar field. In 2016 triathlon and Xterra world champion Flora Duffy (left) lined up alongside world champion Annika Langvad (second from left), Arianne Lüthi (second from right) and Candice Lill (right). Photo by Ewald Sadie. But while education is without a doubt the key to helping to break the poverty cycle in Kayamandi; it is also essential that the children in the songo.info programme are afforded the opportunity to have fun, are encouraged to cultivate a healthy lifestyle and are provided with an outlet to express their competitive spirits. The MTO Champions’ Race does just that. It allows the children do what they love and race their bikes, with the support of their family and friends, but also to see their mountain biking heroes in the flesh. Flora Duffy and Arianne Lüthi in action during the 2016 MTO Champions’ Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie There are four age-group races, two each for boys and girls, with under fourteen and under eighteen categories, as well as an elite women’s category and an invitation only men’s race. The age group and women’s races are open to the general public and the R200 entry fee goes to supporting songo.info’s charitable initiatives. The elite men’s race is the main event of the MTO Champions’ Race and the line-up for 2017 is set to include 2012 Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavý, songo.info co-founder and five time Absa Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser, World Marathon Champion Alban Lakata, Absa Cape Epic winner Kristian Hynek, age-group world champions Sam Gaze and Simon Andreassen, and local hero Erik Kleinhans, amongst others. In keeping with the charitable spirit it has long been a tradition for many of the prize winners in the men’s and women’s races to donate their prizes back to songo.info. For the young cyclists of Kayamandi the MTO Champions’ Race provides them with the opportunity to see some of the world’s best mountain bikers in action. Photo by Johan Bardenhorst All invited entrants to the MTO Champions’ Race will receive a month long permit to the fantastic MTO Trails in Jonkershoek. This permit will hopefully encourage the elite international riders to spend more time training in Stellenbosch in the build-up to the Absa Cape Epic. MTO and songo.info are confident that once they have experienced the riding on offer in Jonkershoek in particular and Stellenbosch in general they will be converted to career long summer visitors to the town. For the MTO Group the MTO Champions’ Race is a unique opportunity to put their social and environmental sustainable ethos into practice. By contributing to supporting the education initiates of songo.info which aimes at uplifting the youth of Kayamandi, through the songo.info educational programme, they are investing in the social future of South Africa and via providing the children with the platform to ride their bicycles they are exposing them to and educating them on the fragile beauty of nature. MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne is looking forward to the MTO Champions’ Race. “The MTO Champions’ race for us is one of the highlights of our year. Where else do you get to mingle with the best MTB riders in world while enjoying the excitement and energy created from the unique atmosphere of racing through Kayamandi. We have seen wonderful benefits through supporting this program and remain focused on growing with song.info. MTO’s intention is ultimately to recognise, enable and employ talent, and engaging with our communities at an early age gives us massive advantage in being able to nurture our youth through sport and education programs. songo.info offer fantastic programmes and opportunities and we are obviously proud partners.” he said. The MTO Champions’ Race provides a unique perspective into life in Kayamandi, in 2016 for example the route past a chisa nyama (braai/barbeque) where this sheep’s head was being prepared for dinner. Photo by Johan Bardenhorst “As far as the racing is concerned, and although I might be a bit biased, I’ve got my money on Christoph Sauser pulling it off, he just gets stronger and stronger, no matter how old he is compared to some of the competition” Polkinhorne concluded. The MTO Champions’ Race takes place on the 15th of March, at the songo.info clubhouse. The age group racing starts at 16:00, with the elite women racing at 17:30 and the elite men at 18:00. For more information please visit www.songo.info or www.mto.co.za.
  12. But in the dusty streets of the impoverished Stellenbosch township of Khayamandi he is revered for something entirely different: the time and effort he has taken to develop the songo.info academy with local community leader Songo Fipaza, a fellow cyclist with a passion for improving the lives of children in the township. Youngsters enjoying the pump track at songo.info. The academy was essentially designed to provide a channel for children to improve themselves and create opportunities for life advancement. Khayamandi is a place where alcohol and drug abuse is widespread, crime is rampant, and teenage pregnancy a major problem. Besides helping with education and job-seeking, songo.info naturally has a significant emphasis on cycling: some top riders have been nurtured from the township. This week three of the four songo.info riders who will take on the Absa Cape Epic were introduced to the local media at the clubhouse built by songo.info. One of them, Theophillus Ngubane, told journalists songo.info had “changed my life dramatically”. Pointing to the nearby dwellings, Ngubane says: “Nobody tells these kids how to make something of their lives … how to live. But if you live your life surrounded by positive people like Christoph, Sipho (Madolo, a Khayamandi youngster who went on to represent South Africa in the marathon world championships) and Songo your life just changes.” Sauser recounted how the charity had been started in 2008 after he met Fipaza and how its scope now included helping youngsters find careers and work opportunities. Ngubane will be riding the Untamed African MTB Race with Lwazi Ntshakaza as team Songo-Investec 2. Lorenzo Leroux and Thando Klaas will be team Songo-Investec 1. Klaas has completed the Epic before - in 2011 - but the others are novices. They will be there courtesy of a decision by the Absa Cape Epic to give free entries for the Exxaro special jersey race – for riders under 26-years-old from disadvantaged backgrounds – to extra teams. “The Absa Cape Epic is the only race that has a category dedicated to development teams and with this initiative, we want to celebrate our next generation of star riders,” said Absa Cape Epic CEO Lynn Naudé. “We hope this will also accelerate the introduction of mountain biking into new communities.” Besides the R50 000 given to Exxaro special jersey race winners to further their studies, the first-placed 2017 team will get to spend eight days at the elite Bakala sports performance academy in Belgium. In 2012 the first Exxaro MTB Academy riders joined the race and became a catalyst for introducing historically disadvantaged South African’s to the sport of mountain biking. The jersey is awarded to the top historically disadvantaged South African team where both riders are under the age of 26 and each year since its launch the contest for the jersey has become more fierce. In August last year the Absa Cape Epic announced that in addition to the teams fielded by the Exxaro MTB Academy, the category would include participants from academies in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape. Cape Epic CEO Lynn Naudé announced that the race had formalised an arrangement with the Diepsloot MTB Academy in Gauteng, the Change A Life Academy in KwaZulu Natal and Songo.Info from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape and each would receive two free team entries to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 races. Another 10 entries were also made available to sponsors, charities or others who might want to enter a team in this category.
  13. Christoph Sauser is a legend in mountain biking for his many achievements over the years, including five Absa Cape Epic wins. Click here to view the article
  14. Photo Credit: Emma Hill But there is a corner of this country where he is revered for something very different. In 2008 Sauser established the songo.info charity in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. This followed a meeting with local community leader Songo Fipaza, a fellow cyclist with a passion for improving the lives of children in the township. Photo Credit: Mark Sampson Kayamandi is a place where alcohol and drug abuse is widespread, crime is rampant, and teenage pregnancy a major problem. Sauser lives and trains in Stellenbosch for large chunks of the year.By 2009 songo.info was up and running with a clubhouse and a BMX cycle track. The clubhouse has since become a refuge for local children, where they come to do homework and to ride bikes. Sauser used his muscle to get sponsors to back the charity and locals say it has made a marked difference in the lives of the children. Sauser and Fipaza set out to build a place where “children are protected and have a safe place to grow and develop” and they appear to have achieved that. Photo Credit: Gary Perkin The emphasis on cycling at songo.info has also unearthed some great talent, a few of whom might one day be able to make a living from the sport. One of them, Sipho Madolo, has already represented South Africa in the marathon world championships and has become a Cape Epic regular. Photo Credit: Ewald Sadie Now four other youngsters from songo.info will be taking part in the Untamed African MTB Race in 2017: Siyabulela Tutu and Thando Klaas will be racing together, as will Lwazi Ntshakaza and Theophillus Ngubane. Klaas has competed the Epic before - in 2011 - but the others are novices. They will be there courtesy of a decision by the Cape Epic to give entries for the Exxaro Special Jersey race – for riders under 26-years-old from disadvantaged backgrounds – to extra teams. “The Absa Cape Epic is the only race that has a category dedicated to development teams and with this initiative we want to celebrate our next generation of star riders,” said Absa Cape Epic CEO Lynn Naudé. “We hope this will also accelerate the introduction of mountain biking into new communities.” Here the songo.info riders talk about the challenge that lies ahead for them: Siyabulela TutuPlease tell us a little bit about yourself: where did you grow up and go to school? My Name is Siyabulela Tutu. I’m 24-years-old and was born and raised in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, but my family originally came from the Eastern Cape. I’ve been riding for songo.info since 2008 when I started mountain biking. I went to Makupula High School in Kayamandi and now have a full time Job. How did you get into mountain biking? I started at songo.info in BMX in 2008 then started mountain biking two years later as one of my friends was doing it and I wanted to try it too. What major mountain biking events have you taken part in? I did a major event in Colombia that is called the Legend of Dorado this year with Sipho Madolo. The race is a seven-day stage race crossing Colombia and we were very lucky to get the trip and entry sponsored. It was fun but very tough. How many hours a day are you spending in the saddle training for the Absa Cape Epic and are you on a training programme? I spend a maximum of three hours a day and then longer rides on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t have specific training plans – I just ride as much as I can, but will start my training programme soon. What are your thoughts on the 2017 route? I am excited about it. I can’t wait to get a real challenge. Are you nervous about taking on the Absa Cape Epic? I am a bit nervous but I can’t turn back I have to be there. I believe this will be a difficult Epic because of hills and flat roads. What are your ambitions for the race? I am willing to go get the Exxaro jersey. I believe if I achieve that it will show my commitment to the people and the race. What has songo.info meant to you? songo.info means a lot to me. I have grown (because of) the organisation. Because of the organisation I now have chances to go to other places and show the skills I have. The kids in Kayamandi are off the street, and they now have the chances to change their lives for the better and for the community. Which mountain bikers inspire you, and why? Christoph Sauser and Paulo Montoya are my best. Every time we race together they encourage me to keep going, even if want to quit. I want to be like them. Which sportsperson do you most admire? Globally I admire Lionel Messi, I believe he is the most skillful sportsperson In the world. Thando Klaas Please tell us a little bit about yourself: where did you grow up and go to school? My Name is Thando Klaas and I grew up in Eastern Cape and went to School in Mthatha at Mtebele Secondary School. How did you get into mountain biking? I started mountain biking in 2009 at songo.info and I have been riding since then and that’s how I started. What major mountain biking events have you taken part in? There are so many mountain biking events I have taken part in, including the 2011 Cape Epic, the joBerg2c and a lot of one-day races. How many hours a day are you spending in the saddle training for the Absa Cape Epic and are you on a training programme? I usually spend two-and-a-half to three hours a day and then longer rides on the weekends. I am just starting a training programme now. What are your thoughts on the 2017 route? The route for the 2017 Cape Epic it will be hard, but I know what to expect and I think am ready for the challenge. Are you nervous about taking on the Absa Cape Epic? It will be my second time competing at the Epic, so I am not that scared. What are your ambitions for the race? I want to race to be the Exxaro jersey winner. What has songo.info meant to you? songo.info means a lot to me. They kept me from doing wrong things in the township and keep me busy. Which mountain bikers inspire you, and why? Christoph Sauser and Sipho Madolo, because they do their best when they are racing. Which sportsperson do you most admire? Jaro (Kulhavy). Lwazi NtshakazaPlease tell us a little bit about yourself: where did you grow up and go to school? My name is Lwazi and I grew up in Kayamandi Stellenbosch. I went to Makupula high school in Kayamandi and did my matric last year. How did you get into mountain biking? I started mountain biking four years ago. It wasn’t something I thought I would enjoy very much but the races inspired me to keep up and take the races seriously. As time went by there was some improvement and it actually changed my life by keeping me busy and healthy. What major mountain biking events have you taken part in? There are so many mountain bike races I have taken part in. I have done a lot of marathon races but not a stage race and this will be my first stage race ever. How many hours a day are you spending in the saddle training for the Absa Cape Epic and are you on a training programme? I usually spend more than three hours a day and do some longer rides, but I’m not yet on a training programme. Sipho says I have to show the commitment and hard work before he can plan training for us. What are your thoughts on the 2017 route? The way I compare my riding style and the route for 2017 I think it will be suitable for me: whether it will be climbing or flat I will be ready for it Are you nervous about taking on the Absa Cape Epic? No, because the way I compare my fitness and how much I will train in December and January with the Epic route … I will survive. What are your ambitions for the race? Obviously the Exxaro jersey What has songo.info meant to you? Songo.info means so much to me because I grew up riding bikes and if it was not for them I don’t know what I would be doing. It is helpful to the community because it is introducing the kids and young adults into the sport and support them in education. Which mountain bikers inspire you, and why? Christoph Sauser, because he is the best mountain biker of all times which is something I dream about. Which sportsperson do you most admire? Nino Schurter Theophillus NgubanePlease tell us a little bit about yourself: where did you grow up and go to school? My name is Theophillus Ngubane from Kayamandi in Stellenbosch, and I am currently 21 years of age. I fell in love with extreme sports from a very young age and that is how I ended up falling in love with bicycles – from racing BMX to downhill mountain biking and now marathon mountain biking. I love art and design, any form of creativity and would love to be given the platform to do so too in the near future. I daydream most of the time and I think that’s one of the reasons why I do what I do on a daily bases. I am currently studying Architectural Technology at Inscape Design College, and love what I do. I believe one should grow and learn and experience new things in life to reach their true potential and it should be backed up by hard work, dedication and most importantly passion. How did you get into mountain biking? I lived in Johannesburg with my mother for a few years and did skateboarding for most of the time I was there. I had to move back to Stellenbosch and the skating scene back then was not as big as in Johannesburg, so I had to find alternative sports to fill the void. Luckily my uncle Ndiphe Ngubane was the BMX coach at songo.info. He pretty much got me into cycling, and the rest is history. What major mountain biking events have you taken part in? I was lucky enough to represent my country at the 2013 UCI Downhill World Champs. I learnt a lot in the week that I spent at world champs, but I think what I really took away from that experience is that people like myself have a responsibility to make what was possible for me a reality for kids from places like where I grew up. I think it’s shocking that there is not more than a handful of coloured riders in South Africa doing downhill, and feel that there is more to be done in terms of promoting the sport in townships. I pray and hope that I will live to see more African downhill riders representing the country in the near future. How many hours a day are you spending in the saddle training for the Absa Cape Epic and are you on a training programme? I normally spend an hour or two on the bike then an hour on the trainer at home. No I don’t have a training programme just yet. What are your thoughts on the 2017 route? The course looks hard and rough and with a lot of climbing to it, but with the right mental strength and training it is very much doable. Are you nervous about taking on the Absa Cape Epic? I think every rider is nervous about racing the Cape Epic, and yes I am too. It is new to me and it’s a new racing scene that I am not used to. I come from a BMX and downhill racing background, and it takes a little getting used to, to sitting for hours on a saddle. But to be honest I think I’m more nervous about wearing tights. What are your ambitions for the race? To be honest this is going to be my first stage race. I normally don’t spend more than three hours on my bike so this is all new to me, but I think that my head is in the right space to compete and to finish. What has songo.info meant to you? I think songo.info and cycling have taught me to chase what I want no matter what, and if it is hard it means you need to work harder to overcome it. Which mountain bikers inspire you, and why? (Australian downhiller) Sam Hill, Siphiso Nhlapo (not a MTBer, but played a huge role in getting me hyped about cycling), South African downhill racers, (US downhiller) Eliot Jackson, little pinner Troy Brosnan (an Australian downhiller) and Christoph Sauser. These people inspire me because they either taught me or inspired and kept me riding my bike. I think that all the people give me hope about how great and successful you can be in cycling, and how you can change peoples lives at the same time. And I think that is what makes them great in my eyes. Which sportsperson do you most admire? I think I admire all sports people, but the person I admire the most doesn’t even ride bikes. I have to list this special person who is so dearly close to heart: Thokozile Hazel Ngubane. This strong lady backed the hell out me at a time when she lost her father and still managed to talk me back into this sport when I was about to leave it. My mum had to leave to go to work in Joburg just to put me in good schools where English was a primary language: I didn’t understand it at first but looking back now I am where I am through communication. So that is who I admire, Thoko Ngubane. * Sauser’s palmares – his list of cycling achievements – include three marathon world championships, one cross country world championship, two World Cup cross country series overall wins, 14 World Cup individual event wins and a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games. And, of course, an unmatched record in the Absa Cape Epic, the world’s foremost mountain bike stage race. * The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race takes place from 19 to 26 March and the much anticipated route can be viewed .
  15. The MTO Group has become synonymous to mountain bikers with fantastic trails; from Jonkershoek to Tsitsikamma many of the Western Cape’s most beloved mountain bike routes weave their way through MTO plantations. For the Kayamandi based charity, songo.info, though the MTO Group provides far more than a mountain biker’s playground – by supporting the charity’s education initiatives the MTO Group is providing possibilities for young people beyond the bike. Click here to view the article
  16. Christoph Sauser in action during the MTO Champions Race. Photo by Ewald Sadie. Founded in 2008 by Songo Fipaza and Swiss mountain biking legend Christoph Sauser, the aim of songo.info was initially to provide a safe space for the children of Kayamandi to play and introduce them to BMX riding and mountain biking. It soon became apparent though that there was so much more which needed to be done to improve the lives of the children in the programme. In 2014 the songo.info clubhouse was opened and afterschool homework classes were implemented. Under the guidance of songo.info trustee and retired educator Eunice Myataza the children are assisted with their homework for an hour, Mondays to Thursdays, before they are allowed to head outside and ride the BMXs or mountain bikes. Homework sessions alone though are not enough to address the shortfalls in the education of the youth of Kaymandi and this is where the generous support of the MTO Group has been making a significant impact since March 2016. Project manager, Sipho Madolo (in blue) racing some of the young boys in the programme on the songo.info BMX track. Photo by Seamus Allardice. With MTO’s support songo.info was able to bring Liz Ward on board to head up the education programme and implement, with the support of the rest of the team, a number of exciting initiatives. One of the most promising of these being the Reading Eggs programme, this interactive, online, programme teaches children to read in an engaging and entertaining manner. It’s also essential to the children in the programme as they are not native English speakers. With much of their teaching and learning conducted in English, increasing their English comprehension skills is an important step in improving their academic results. With the assistance of the MTO Group songo.info has been able to implement other initiatives too, including fortnightly and holiday extra mathematics sessions; a tertiary education programme; a life-skills development programme; holiday activity plans; and educational outings which help foster a love of learning. Plans are also being put in place to create a tertiary scholars intern programme which will see students from Stellenbosch University volunteer as tutors to children in the songo.info programme. Putting the reading egg platform to good use. Photo by Etienne van Rensburg. As MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne explains: “songo.info’s vision is aligned with MTO’s social performance programs. We believe that it is critical to identify, nurture and develop talent from a young age. The songo.info programme offers kids the opportunity to learn discipline, commitment, pride and participation which we believe will ultimately culminate in well-rounded individuals who will lead by example in their communities. It is a privilege to be associated with songo.info and we look forward to celebrating the positive impact the programme has on all associated with it”. Liz Ward teaching at the songo.info club house. Photo by Etienne van Rensburg | songo.info It is songo.info’s ultimate aim to provide a holistic support structure for the children within the programme, and in so doing help them reach their full potential as individuals. It is a tragic reality of life in South Africa that so many children are born into a life of poverty; it is only through programmes which provide children with support structures beyond simply sport or education that the individual children can be empowered to break the cycle of poverty. With the help of the MTO Group songo.info hopes to do just that for the youth of Kayamandi.
  17. Daily life for Rainmaker Solutions CEO, Jan Joubert in London is far removed from the dusty streets of Kaymandi, but that doesn’t prevent him from doing all he can to help raise much needed funds for songo.info. While spearheading a recent charity drive in the UK Jan managed to raise £33 000, which when converted to South African Rand equates to R734 000. This will go a long way to helping songo.info improve the lives of the children in the programme. Click here to view the article
  18. Christoph Sauser sharing a laugh with the supporters of the songo.info UK charity ride. Photo by: Justin Sullivan. The funds were raised through ticket sales to attend a gala dinner on 5th May 2016 in London, where an auction of kindly donated items was conducted. Going under the hammer were two of Richard Scott’s Cape Epic prints, race entries to the Wines2Whales mountain bike race and the Cape Rouleur road tour, a Maurice LaCroix watch and a double magnum of 2011 Tenuta di Biserno. No songo.info charity event would be complete without support from Specialized Bicycles who, along with M1Performance donated to the auction a Specialized Epic Comp Carbon mountain bike and a performance training package. A raffle also took place but undoubtedly the event which stirred up the most excitement and raised money was the pre-gala dinner ride with songo.info co-founder and mountain biking legend, Christoph Sauser. Jan Joubert in action during the songo.info UK charity ride. Photo by: Justin Sullivan. The songo.info programme is entirely reliant on the generosity of companies and individuals to fund the day-to-day running of the programme. As such songo.info would like to heartily thank everyone who donated their time and money to support Rainmaker Solutions’ songo.info UK charity drive. In particular songo.info, and the children in the programme, owe Jan Joubert a massive debt of thanks. Without the kind donations of people like Jan and companies like Rainmaker, songo.info wouldn’t be able to introduce the children of Kaymandi to BMXs and mountain bikes, or provide them with a safe place to study, volunteers to help them with their homework, and guidance and assistance in their search for jobs or in their quest to obtain higher education. songo.info’s leading mountain biking talent and programme manager Sipho Madolo BMX racing with the younger children. Photo by: Seamus Allardice. Sadly, due to the worsening security situation in Kaymandi, not all the funds raised by these generous donations can be allocated to improving the needs of the children of the township. songo.info has recently suffered from a renewed spate of criminal activity directed at the clubhouse. As such the decision has been made to erect palisade fencing and beef up security around the clubhouse and the BMX track. It was never the intention of songo.info to physically limit access to the facilities, but criminal activity is a sad reality of the poverty stricken community within which the charity operates. songo.info strives to improve the lives of the inhabitants of Kayamandi though the education of the youth, it is a gradual process and one which is not achievable if the programme’s facilities and bicycles are damaged or stolen. The songo.info clubhouse and BMX track. Photo by: Seamus Allardice. If you would like to contribute to one of the songo.info initiatives or if you’d like to find out more about the work that songo.info does in the Kayamandi community please visit www.songo.info or http://www.songo.info/getting-involved/donations/?id=29 to donate directly. The donations page features a detailed breakdown of the costs of the programme so you see where your donations will be used to support the youth of Kayamandi. The songo.info rule is homework first, riding second. Here the high school students are completing their homework before heading out with Sipho Madolo for a mountain bike ride. Photo by: Seamus Allardice.
  19. Stellenbosch’s Sipho Madolo from the Songo.info programme will use the experience he gained from the world’s most gruelling eight-day mountain bike stage race when he tackles the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April. Click here to view the article
  20. After recently completing the Absa Cape Epic with the legendary Swiss mountain bike specialist Christoph Sauser, Madolo says that the experience of racing with Sauser at the Epic is something that cannot be matched. Sipho Madolo from the Songo.info programme will use the experience he gained from the world’s most gruelling eight-day mountain bike stage race when he tackles the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April. Photo credit: Andrew McFadden. “I think it was a highlight of my racing career,” said Madolo. “I learnt how to eat, drink, save time at the feed zone, position myself the entire time during the race and most importantly, have fun. Racing with a legend like Sauser was a learning process and growing experience so it actually gave me more motivation for marathon racing even though I will still stick to the cross-country, as I feel like that’s where you can improve your skills, intensity and power for marathon racing.” The 25-year-old joined Songo.info towards the end of 2009 at the age of 18 with his main motivation to lose weight. “I noticed however, that he was more committed than the other guys,” said Songo Fipaza, founder of the Songo.info programme. “He was so committed to his training. We would train seven days of running and seven days of cycling, and so on, and if I wasn't around or if I had to go out, then some of the guys would take a chance and skip training, but not Sipho. “I could see his commitment and dedication to getting fit and chose him to be my partner for the 2010 Cape Epic. He hasn't looked back. And now with Susi transferring knowledge and mentoring him during this year’s Epic, he is going from strength to strength. His goal is to wear the African jersey and to also win the Epic one day.” Even though Madolo has a strong focus on cross-country racing, he will still be racing in the SA MTB Marathon Champs in Clarens this April after skipping a year. “I am really looking forward to it!” he said. While the 2016 SA National MTB Marathon Championships is targeted at the Elite Men (Ultra Marathon) Elite Women (Marathon) and Junior and Youth Men and Women (Half Marathon) for National Championship status, the race event is the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, which caters for all age groups and fitness abilities. Not only does the picturesque Free State village boast exquisitely breath-taking mountain views, but also offers a range of activities such as golf, horse riding and hiking, a selection of coffee shops, cafes, art galleries and pubs. The event also offers child minding facilities, hospitality, bike wash and complete medical centre with a doctor on site. For more information and to enter, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-marathon-champs/.
  21. Aside from the custom paint job, Sausers Epic S-Works features the recently released SRAM Level Ultimate brakes. Other changes from the factory specification include his Rotor Rex crankset and QRing oval chainring (34T) with Look S-Track pedals. Following a bit of a trend we're noticing among the pro contingent, the bike also sports a Specialized Power saddle (in this case the S-Works model). Specification list: FrameSpecialized Epic S-Works ForkRockshox RS-1 Brain 100mmShockFox Specialized Brain Future ShockRimsRoval Control SLFront HubSRAMRear HubRoval SLFront TyreSpecialized Renegade 1.95Rear TyreSpecialized Renegade 1.95HandlebarsSpecialized S-WorksStemSyntace F109HeadsetFSABrakesSRAM Level UltimateShiftersSRAM XX1DerailleursSRAM XX1CassetteSRAM X01CranksetRotor Rex 34TChainringQRing QX1ChainXX1PedalsLook S-TrackSeatpostSpecialized S-WorksSaddleSpecialized Power SWORKS We spotted some 'weight weenie' bolts in the mix too
  22. The Specialized Epic is quite likely the defacto bike of choice at the Absa Cape Epic. We've seen countless examples of Specialized's cross-country racer this year, but this particular bike is quite special. Christoph Sauser's Epic S-Works is decked out in a custom Investec Songo Specialized paint strip. Something about the Investec zebra black, white and silver all fits quite nicely. And somewhat ironically, even in retirement Sauser still dons a zebra jersey, albeit of a different sort to that of his Epics past. Click here to view the article
  23. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie. This spectator friendly race will take place on Wednesday 9 March. It is seen as an unofficial warm-up race for the Absa Cape Epic giving supporters a chance to see some of the world’s best riders in action before they get down to business at the Epic. The uniqueness of this event comes from the fact that riders from all over the world race through the streets of Kayamandi – an informal settlement on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Locals get the opportunity to see riders go past their front doors and the international riders get to ride on a “course” like no other in the world. Last year’s champions were Jaroslav Kulhavy and Annika Langvad. The goal of the MTO songo.info Champions Race is to primarily raise awareness but also funds for songo.info – brainchild of multiple world champion Christoph Sauser and Kayamandi local Songo Fipaza. This organisation has been growing in stature since it was started in 2008. songo.info is a social development programme that provides sport and educational support to the children of Kayamandi. The programme provides a safe place to play and grow, establishing values of accountability and responsibility, while teaching goal setting and instilling in children, the ability to dream and work to achieve their goals. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie. This year MTO Forestry will sponsor the songo.info Champions Race. The MTO group has come on board as not only the new sponsor of the event, but also as a long term partner of the songo.info program through their MTO cares initiative. MTO Forestry is the rebrand of Cape Pine that owns timber plantations from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth – including Jonkershoek, Tokai, Grabouw and many other favourite local mountain biking destinations. They are the driving force behind the rebuild of the destroyed MTB trails as well as the creation of an extensive trail network in Jonkershoek. “ ‘Care first’ is a core value of ours and forms the basis of how we conduct business, going well beyond the minimum standards. MTO believes that it is important to give back to the communities and environments in which we operate and this has become entrenched in the way we operate on a daily basis. We are committed to sustainable forestry, recognising our social and environmental responsibilities whilst also ensuring our economic sustainability and the wellbeing of our people,” said Lawrence Polkinghorne, CEO of the MTO Group. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie. The men’s race is invitation only, while the women and kids’ races (U14 & U18) are open. For more information go to www.songo.info/events or email info@songo.info
  24. This year will see the fifth edition of the very popular and special MTO songo.info Champions Race in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. Click here to view the article
  25. Over the past three days in Stellenbosch South Africa, their bikes have been built and detailed to rider specification. We take a closer look at the custom decals, the celebrated Epic and the subtle differences between the two bikes. In twenty thirteen, the only Cape Epic that Sauser and Jaroslav have paired for, they won the GC title after early setbacks and a heroic comeback. Sauser is synonymous with the Cape Epic and brings the 4-wins of experience, while Kulhavy is the current Olympic and XCM World Champion. They start as race favourites. The project has been lead by Global Team Manager, Benno Willeit, who has played an integral role in the success of Specialized Racing at the Cape Epic since 2006. "I have only missed 2 Cape Epic's! I hope Christoph will have a great race for his last one. It is going to be very hard to replace him. His experience is huge and he keeps the team together." - Benno. Christoph Sauser: "For the rear I have a custom World Cup tune Brain Suspension. The platform is a little bit firmer and the shock is a little stiffer. I like the brain on the completely firm setting, but it has easy adjustment. The pressure is around 155psi for the Cape Epic." "Brand new is the RS-1 fork. The pressure I run is around 80psi. I will ride 100mm for the Cape Epic where the terrain is rough. In Europe I will ride it at a 90mm setting for a more aggressive set up. The upside down design really helps the seals stay clean and well lubricated throughout the Cape Epic." "One of the biggest assets for the S-Works Epic is the SWAT box and the space to carry two water bottles in the frame. I was sceptical about it at first, but now I love it. Everything is in the box. No looking in the pockets. Everything stays clean, it is a very smart storage unit. I know where everything is in the SWAT box and it is easy to access when I need it most." "I love the new Specialized silicone grips. They really stick to the handlebars and there is no movement." "The XX-1 group set keeps the handlebars clean. I love that. There are only 3 cables. It is clean and simple. I use SRAM Guide brakes with 160mm rotors in the front and rear. In the front there is a 34t custom Rotor ring." "My choice for tires are definitely the Renegade Control 1.95. They have great rolling resistance. 26/27 psi for the tires. It goes up by about 2 psi during the race on warm days." There are a few subtle differences between the bikes of Christoph and Jaroslav. Holgar Friesen, team mechanic, takes us through some of the these. "If we go through the components. Christoph uses a customised 34t Rotor Ring, while Jaroslav prefers a standard 36t SRAM ring with a Quarq power meter. Christoph uses a straight seat post while Jaroslav prefers one with a set-back. They are running different brake setups too, to suit preferences." Jaroslav Kulhavy: "36t chain ring for me two years ago, I have good feeling with it, so I try it again. The Brain in the front and rear is amazing for the Cape Epic terrain. We are saving so much energy. It is easy on the mind, I don't have to concentrate on that, very clever. I choose Renegade tires: They are very fast and have good side wall protection. I will use the Quarq power meter to analyse data for the future, it should be interesting." "The biggest story here is that over and above the custom artwork, these bikes and components are available to riders and fans through Specialized dealers" - Dylan van der Merwe, Global Sports Marketing Product Planner. This article and images was published with the permission of Specialized Africa. The original article published on 11 March 2015 can be found here.
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