Team Coronation Ride2Live. Sharing a Dream
The annual Coronation Double Century is an institution in cycling circles. Starting and finishing in the Western Cape town of Swellendam, the “DC” covers a shade over 200km of rolling terrain with a few major climbs. Participants tackle the challenge in teams of twelve, the racing snakes chasing fast times in tight team time trial formation whilst the backmarkers soak up the scenery and experience in a looser paceline. And while bragging rights directly translate to a fast finishing time, each team is only as fast as its sixth rider across the line.
Yes, the Double Century is indeed a competitive event for some and an annual testing ground for many. But what about taking it a step further and seeing it as a vehicle for social upliftment, personal growth and community inspiration?
Road Bike magazine were offered a team entry to the sold out Coronation Double Century by Coronation to offer to a disadvantaged team who were not financially able to afford to attend this unique and high profile, aspirational event. The generous offer included meals, high quality technical riding apparel, hard to find accommodation in Swellendam and a team entry.
A group of motivated, Gauteng-based riders submitted their proposal and had the time of their lives. While all proficient cyclists, none of the group had completed such a distance before. So the opportunity to realise a dream came with no small amount of nerves, as Thabang Mothlothlong explains.
‘I only got the call to join the Coronation Double Century Team the week before the event,’ he says. ‘It both excited and frightened me at the same time. But I saw it as a great opportunity as I’d been wanting to ride my bike in the Western Cape for a long time.’
Together with Papa Mothibi, Peter Phala, Tshepiso Sehloho, Yaseen Khan, Christopher Sehlangu, Vussi Marenene and Monkwe Makinta, Thabang formed Team Coronation Ride2Live. Hitting the road from Pretoria on the Thursday evening, this intrepid group of friends made the long trip down south. Arriving in Swellendam mid-afternoon on Friday, they were exhausted and craving sleep. For a while at least.
‘The atmosphere in Swellendam was infectious,’ says Thabang. ‘So we all got on our bikes for a short leg-loosener before meeting up with the folks from Coronation for dinner, race kit and route advice. To say we were overwhelmed by all the support would be an understatement.’
With the majority of the team being mountain bikers, the Coronation Double Century was their first experience of a major road cycling event, not that this deterred them in anyway.
‘Most of our team had limited road racing experience,’ says Vussi Marenene. ‘So it was always going to be a challenge. We also knew the second half the race would be difficult so we planned accordingly. But most of all, we were concerned about our bikes as they are not exactly state-of-the-art machines. Fortunately we had no mechanical issues and we came together really well as a team.’
It’s the “Dead Zone” or the “Bermuda Triangle,” that point in the Double Century at around 150km where legs can suddenly turn to jelly and the dreaded hunger knock can take over. The finish line suddenly seems like an eternity away and one starts to pedal in squares. Case in point for some members of Coronation Ride2Live.
‘We were determined to work as a team,’ says Thabang of his “hitting the wall.” ‘I felt normal until 150km after which I was struck by cramps and extreme fatigue. But the team dynamics were amazing and the guys really came together as a unit over those last few climbs. It was really emotional for me to cross the line in their company after thinking it was all over a couple of hours earlier.’
‘There were times when I just told myself to keep pedalling,’ echoes Vussi. ‘And I kept remembering a mantra where if you want to go far you go together. We went 202km together!’
‘I had only ever done two races as I am largely a mountain biker,’ chips in Monkwe Makinta. ‘But this was the best race experience ever! Besides the cycling focus, I really learned about teamwork, planning and discipline. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely!’
And while this group of riders from Gauteng vow to be back in 2018, there is a deeper motivation behind their 202km romp around the Overberg region last November.
‘Most of Team Coronation Ride2Live were made up of riders from Ga-Rankuwa and Soshanguve,’ explains Jimmy Motsei of Marusport. ‘While cycling as a sport is relatively new in the black communities, those who have discovered it have found a way of enjoying a healthy lifestyle whilst spending time with friends. And many of these guys want to inspire others to join them. While professional riders such as William Mokgopo and Yaseen Khan are role models in these respective communities, they also want others to follow in their footsteps and use cycling as vehicle for personal growth and social upliftment.’