Prior to this last weekend’s  highly competitive Tour of Durban most pundits overlooked the chances of Sampada Cycling. A classy field lined up for the race and in the build-up the regular names of Gustav Venter (the defending champ), Steven van Heerden, Dylan Girdlestone and Nolan Hoffman were on most people’s podium list. These favourites were backed up by high profile local racing teams such as Team Enza, TEG Pro, Barzani Pro Cycling and Officeguru.

However in an excellent showing Thokozani Mahlangu of Sampada Cycling manage to fight his way onto the podium in a well deserved 2nd place, just seconds behind the winner Steven van Heerden. Thokozani has a great racing pedigree and was included in the SA team for the Sharjah tour in the UAE in 2018 – so this result was bound to happen at some stage. This is brilliant result for Thokozani and the team, especially given the tough year that Sampada has by their own admission had.

If you were following Sampada’s journey more closely recently, this result shouldn’t however have come as a big surprise. The ever inspiring Bonga Ngqobane was recently appointed as the team’s director sportif. Bonga comes with bags of experience, knowledge, charisma and passion. This combination has undoubtedly played a role in the team’s success. For those not familiar with his impressive CV, he is amongst others, a level 2 UCI qualified cycling coach and was recently the director sportif for the South African National team at the African Road Champs in Ethiopia.  We caught up with Bonga after the race:

Congratulations Bonga! Excellent result for you, Thokozani and the team. Can you give us a quick race overview:
Thank you very much, yes it was my first Tour of Durban as a DS with the team and we had a mission to have 3 or 4  riders in the top 10. With the race being shortened to only 90 km it was always going to be interesting.  The pace was high from the start with people attacking left, right and center.  With no one really getting a gap . At about 40 km to go we managed to get in the breakaway with Thokozani, and a few other guys and that would  prove to be the winning move. It was still tough racing for Thokozani as Officeguru had two members in the breakaway. There were a lot of attacks in the break, especially as we were nearing the finish, but the breakaway stayed together. We ended up in the sprint and Thokozani managed to get a brilliant 2nd spot”
Did the racing style and finish favour Thokozani? Thokozani is not an out and out sprinter, but he is one of our fastest guys. He comes from a mountain bike background, is very strong and can show high cadence. He had the legs on the day, but this is due to the hard work we had put in, in the weeks before.
You must be very impressed with the team’s showing?   Yes, everyone worked hard and contributed, but we still have a lot to fix in terms of racing and following the plan. Discipline remains our biggest challenge and that will be fixed in no time. There is always room for improvement. For example its best to have at least two riders in each move but we ended up having one rider in the breakaway which sometimes could be a disadvantage to us in a case where the rider gets a mechanical, however very well done to each individual who played their part  in making sure that we make our way back to the podium. I must in particular also say well done again to Archie, our first year U/23 team member, now racing with the big boys for the first time!
Bonga, I am always impressed with the pictures I see on social media from your guys’ training up in Sabie, looks like you are putting in the hard yards. Yes, we used to be based in Pretoria but moved to a new base in Sabie last year. The terrain is perfect for training and the guys are training hard. With our incredible sponsors, Sampada Private Equity, Milton Resourcing, Uthombo Wealth and Kekana Consulting, the guys can afford to train full time and the results will follow.

You only came on board recently with Sampada, how did it come about?  I was actually involved in the background from the outset. When Sampada was initiated a few years ago, a couple of my development riders (TAS Bonga Cycling Academy) actually moved up country to join the team. I was always involved in the background supporting Bruce. In the beginning of the year they approached me to become full time manager and it was a great opportunity for me to help to contribute to a cause and team I believe in. The start of our season wasn’t to good, but the team was still getting together and there was a lot of external factors that caused us not to bring home the results.  We went back to the drawing board and starting building again, so this result in the Tour of Durban is a result of the work we put in.

What are your goals for the remainder of the season?

This year is our rebuilding year. We lost a bit of our status last year….this year we are reclaiming that.  We now look forward to 100Cycle Challenge this weekend in Ekhurhuleni and we look forward to fight again. We are like a pride of lions, we go out to hunt and to bring something back home. We always aim high… for podiums or for great team results.
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