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Exxaro mountain bike academy announces teams to ride the 2012 Absa Cape Epic


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In August 2011, Exxaro Resources was announced as a new headline sponsor and official development academy partner to the Absa Cape Epic. Consequently, the Exxaro MTB Academy was established with the vision to introduce the mountain biking experience to historically disadvantaged communities and individuals, and ultimately assist to transform the sport in South Africa.


In order to achieve this vision, the Academy formally defined a number of objectives - the main ones being to increase the number of previously disadvantaged riders participating in the sport and events like the Absa Cape Epic; to create change in the lives of communities by providing young people with a healthy lifestyle alternative and inspire them to build a positive future for themselves and their families, thereby creating an environment to fulfil their dreams. Future Academy initiatives will also have a close link to the wellness programmes of Exxaro’s operating business units.


According to CEO, Sipho Nkosi: “Exxaro chose to foster the sport as a catalyst for change by partnering the Absa Cape Epic. Our goal was to identify talented riders, screen them, train them and develop them to be able to become part of the experience of such a world-class event like the Absa Cape Epic. And we’re doing exactly that! Today we are proud to announce the Academy teams who will ride this prestigious race.”


Screening process:

As part of the screening process, the Academy defined three regions in which new talent was sourced. The Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Waterberg regions target many of Exxaro’s business operations and initial qualifying races were held at these operations in order to recruit potential riders from the operations and surrounding communities. About one hundred bicycles were made available to the operations to enable anybody to participate. During the last three weekends in November 2011, each region was given the opportunity to host a regional race. Qualifying riders from the respective regions participated in all three the regional races in order to compete for a place to be included in the training camp. The top seeded riders from the regional races were given the opportunity to race in the Sabie Experience, hosted in Sabie from 15-18 December 2011. The teams received excellent results, notwithstanding the fact that for most of them it was their first ever formal race experience.


Apart from the local and regional screening events, the Academy also launched the Exxaro Academy Bursary programme which made entries available to promising disadvantaged riders who could motivate and apply for support from the Academy. This programme was managed with the assistance and expertise from the Absa Cape Epic management team. Three teams were awarded entries through the bursary programme.


With the most talented riders identified, the Academy’s first training camp was held at Mankele MTB Lodge near Nelspruit from 16-19 January 2012. 22 development riders participated in this three-day event. Apart from hard riding, technical workshops were also presented and riders were briefed on important information like discipline, proper nutrition and teamwork.

The training camp was used as a final screening process to identify the teams which will be entered into the 2012 Absa Cape Epic. The camp also provided the opportunity to test all skills levels of the riders, including endurance, power, technical ability, mental ability and fitness levels. -all of which was used to decide on the pairing of the teams.


Preliminary team announcement:

Personal feedback on performance was given to each individual rider and the Academy teams to be entered into this year’s Absa Cape Epic are as follows:


Team 1: Justice Makhale(Gauteng) and Prince Maseko (Mpumalanga)

Team 2: Philemon Sebona (Gauteng) and William Mokgopo (Gauteng)

Team3: Jan Montshioa (Mpumalanga) and Thokozane Mahlangu (Mpumalanga)

Team 4: Thomas Sokolangane(Mpumalanga) and Thabiso Komapi (Gauteng)

Team 5: Bruce Malele (Gauteng) and Musa Manana (Mpumalanga)

Team 6: Hans Shongoane (Waterberg) and Peter Monyako (Waterberg)

Team 7: Siyabonga Njiva (KZN) and Siphamandla Mtshali (KZN) -via bursary programme

Team 8: Sivuyile Kepelele (Songo) and Azukile Simayile (Songo) – via bursary programme

Team 9: Bongani Bhusakhawe (Songo) and Sipho Madolo (Songo) – via bursary programme


Apart from the development teams above, the Academy’s regional organisers and other business partners will also be entered to ensure that riders are supported on route. These teams are:


Team 10: Johan Labuschagne and Yolande de Villiers (mixed team)

Team 11: Koos Klopper and Mellis Walker

Team 12: Willie van Schalkwyk and Christoff Prinsloo


The way forward:

Exxaro will provide full support to the teams. Each individual rider will receive a training programme to focus on specific challenges. The development teams will also receive brand new bikes and will be entered to race in the Bridgestone Route 69 MTB Experience to be hosted in Gauteng from 24-26 February 2012. Final amendments to the teams will be made after this race if necessary.


Those riders who did not qualify for an entry into the Absa Cape Epic this year, will remain on the Academy’s development programme throughout the year. Through the screening processes, a number of very talented riders who are too young to qualify for an Absa Cape Epic entry will also continue with the programme in preparation for an entry in future.


During April, the Academy will launch a structured programme for training, screening and qualifying races for the rest of 2012. The goal is to source and identify more and more talented riders to include in the Academy.


Justice Makhale, who is sponsored by and has been riding for Exxaro since April 2011 will also play a vital role in the Exxaro MTB Academy going forward. His excellent coaching and mentoring skills will be of great value to the development riders.


Says Makhale: “I am very proud of all the riders, especially those who made it into the Absa Cape Epic. Everybody is training very hard to make the most of this opportunity and I can clearly see an improvement on their skills and ability since joining the Academy. We are looking forward to race in the Absa Cape Epic and to continue with the development training programmes thereafter.”


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