RMB Change a Life stars set to tackle dusi2c MTB Race
Jun 19 2013
Pietermaritzburg – The inaugural dusi2c mountain bike race will see four teams from the Valley of a Thousand Hills-based RMB Change A Life Academy eager to embrace the race with a long term view of creating a sustainable mountain bike industry in the region.
Change A Life pioneer Martin Dreyer, who started the project to support young paddlers aiming to excel at the Dusi Canoe Marathon, says the new mountain bike race is a logical extension of the programme, and could have a profound impact on the valley residents.
“The reality is that there is already a mountain biking ethos in the valley as the youngsters in the valley ride everywhere,” says Dreyer. “I was thrilled when ‘Farmer Glen’ (Haw) started this race because everything he touches turns to gold, and I honestly believe that this could be start of something huge for the valley.”
Dreyer pointed out that employment opportunities were almost non-existent in the valley, which resulted in many families being separated as parents sought work elsewhere.
“The dusi2c has the potential to kick-started a whole mountain biking guiding tourism industry in the valley, creating sustainable employment for these young athletes,” said Dreyer.
“The guys will give 100%, as they always do, but for us it is just as important to make sure everyone has a fantastic experience in the valley, so I have told them they need to be courteous and polite and help wherever they can,” Dreyer added.
Dreyer pointed out that the requirement for every team to have a map-downloadable GPS for the race had posed problems as the team could not afford to buy GPS units for each rider or team, but that the team had come with typically positive solutions to the challenge.
“They are riding the trails and learning them in the week before the race,” said Dreyer.
Team captain John Ntuli, who will partner Bongumusa Zikhali for the race, said his riders had spent the week before the race learning the trails.
“This race is in our valleys so we should be at a real advantage,” said Ntuli. “We have been training in the valley learning the trials. Where we are not sure we ask local kids where the guys have been cutting single track, or where the guys on motorbikes came to make the GPS routes.”
Ntuli was optimistic that local knowledge would make it possible for one of their teams to race onto the podium, but said that it was probably more important to teach his riders the skills needed for multi-day team racing.
“Some of the guys have done joberg2c and sani2c, but I want to teach them about pacing and looking after your partner,” said Ntuli. “So much can happen on a race like this, from punctures to getting tired, so you need to learn how to race these team races.”
“We have so much talent in the valley and we plan to expand to including women in the team next year. There are great trails to ride in the area and we believe that this will help create more opportunities in the valley,” said Ntuli.
“This is a long term investment from our RMB Change A Life teams taking part in the dusi2c, and we are really excited about what can follow from this,” Dreyer added.
The dusi2c mountain bike race took place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 June 2013.
Final RMB Change a Life Zulu Overall Results:
4th – John Ntuli and Bongumusa Zikhali
9th – Sizwe Mkhasibe and Mboneni Ngcobo
12th – Kwanda Mhlopheand Nhlanhla Cele
14th – Sabelo Mncuabe and Thembani Zwane
20th – Mthobi Mzolo and Mvelisi Mchunu
33rd – Lucus Mthalane and S’yanda
For the last month I have been hearing my Zulus say, “Eeish, training is very hard….”.
Fair enough, this discipline on two wheels is new to them, but the reality is, it ain’t gonna get any easier.
Brainwave I thought – “Get them to do a race or weekend of racing that is so hard, it will make all the ‘hard’ training we doing, seem easy.”
Looking at the KZN Mtb Calendar, the 75km Giants Castle is just that race – massive climbs, 600m bike portage up steep goat track, gnarly descents and natural “ungroomed”single track due to zero human intervention taking place in a Nature Reserve.
We journeyed to the Drakensberg to take on this Challenge. Hats off to the RMBCAL Zulus for their ‘never give up’ attitude, and how beginner Mthobisi Mzolo placed so well in his Hi-Tecs on flat pedals, I just don’t know – the youngster oozes talent. Thanks to Wildlands for their generous hospitality, 4 complimentary entries & providing tents for us. Leaving the spectacular mountainous Park, John sitting next to me says, “Mart, that was a Life experience!” I replied, “Ja, you’re right, but how awesome is this area, and you know what, it yours, mine, it belongs to all of us. And at that moment they all broke into a smile – super Proudly South African.
John had an incredible race – placing 2nd overall 3hr 44min, 3rd-Mart-4hr 01, 5th-Sizwe-4hr05, 8th-Mboneni-4hr15, 9th-Jeannie-4hr21, 14th-Mthobisi-4hr44, 15th-Mbongmusa-4hr54, 18th-Thembani-5hr, 25th-Sabelo-5hr20, 32nd-S’busiso-5hr35.
We returned to Pmb and stayed in the Backpackers. The following day the RMBCAL Zulus took part in the fast paced 40km Intaba Ridge Mtb Classic. Even with tired legs to begin, no complaints were uttered and again they gave their all. It was such a good confidence boost for them to know that it was still possible to do back to back races.
With fitness levels increasing, training sessions have gone up a notch and having my Wife Jeannie, making regular guest appearences – just keeps things honest. She rides magnificently and my old saying “Steady wins the game”, rings true with her approach to pacing herself perfectly to the finish line. Jeannie is my ‘default bar’ of where my boys fitness is at.
Six weeks ago, Jeannie beat all but one of my RMBCAL Zulus in the 62km Wartburg Mtb Classic. Now at Giants, 3 RMBCAL Zulus managed to pip her to the finish line – you have no idea how chuffed they were. In my books, thats progress….
The logic of riding the tough Giants, showing my Zulus that the training we are doing is ‘normal’, is paying dividends. But with Joberg2c in a couple of weeks, we need to take it up yet another level…. Two teams will be riding the full 9 days….
With a local bike shop closing down, we managed to get important bike tools at bargain prices, enabling us to do much of our own repairs, straightening bent deraileur hangers, removing rear cassettes, truing a wheel etc….
Danie from Squirt lubricants, generously offered to sponsor our Mtb Academy with their product - which is so lekker, as we have currently been purchasing that exact chain lube – thanks a mil.
Excitement looms with the prospect of their new GT Zaskar 29″ bikes arriving in 10 days and cycling kit. But as with my CAL Zulu paddlers, handouts are not part of the deal, they have to be earned and thus deserved. So not all will be receiving a new racing machine . Three criteria have to be met:
- 1 Finish within 15min of my fastest RMBCAL Zulu on a particular 2 1/2hr ride in the Valley
- 2 Complete a X-country lap in under 22min at Cascades Mtb World X-Country Course in Pmb
- 3 A-Batch rider according to Roag ranking.
As it stands, 4 Zulus will be smiling….
regarding the others, some are close – just a little more BLOOD, SWEAT & GEARS….
You have most likely heard the saying “Mountain Biking is the new corporate Golf” – that it most certainly is. Everyone is doing it, so why not the folk in the rural impoverished Valley of a Thousand Hills, where raw Talent for “anything” runs riot but is never identified due to zero opportunity & support structures. To become a decent mountain biker, requires more than just muscle braun – life skills come into play and need to be developed. Life skills such as Discipline, Hard Work, Ability to Focus & Goal Setting to name but a few.
My dream of giving youngsters an opportunity to achieve their potential/experience life as we know it, through Mountain Biking, has been made possible by RMB, and I thank them immensely for that. USN & Hi-Tec have too stepped up to the plate with their support of this rural grassroots Mountain Biking initiative very much in the embryo stage of development.
Where we currently at…. identyfying Talent
I am pleased to have located an awesome ‘Clubhouse’ (mud rondavel), which we use as a base – where potential athletes are fed & bed and a place to store the bicycles until our container arrives.
It really is exciting times – recruiting and identifying Talent for this new ‘Change a Life’ initiative, which is currently underway. Generous bike donations & cycling kit have allowed the Zulus to test themselves against the “1000 Hills” playground in which they live. Just recently 8 new practice Avalanche Bikes arrived, but only 6 have been allocated due to attendance & performance criteria being matched. I don’t make training easy and am always pushing the potential athletes comfort zones – unlike my Change a Life paddlers, their affinity to water is almost zero.
Last week saw the RMB CAL Mtb Team attending their first race – 62km Wartburg Mtb Classic. Seasoned CAL multi-sporter John Ntuli placed a credible 13th overall. All the other new Zulu recruits (8 guys) “survived”, except for Sabelo, who had a nasty fall when the front wheel of his donated bicycle overtook him on a steep downhill, as you can imagine, he bought himself a lovely piece of ‘real estate’. Sabelo said he had to take some time out, his right side ached like hell. After a friendly passing cyclists stopped and poured some water over his head, he got up and continued on his broken bike with his not so comfortable seat.
It was a tough route and the perfect eye opener for what to expect down the road.
Mthobisi Mzolo, in his Hi-Tecs and flat pedals, really impressed me. His 5th time on a bicycle, so he took part in the shorter 42km race and placed a credible 46th overall. He shows great vasbyt, never misses a training session and is a humble alround good guy.
This week the RMB CAL Zulus are riding to Pmb, sleeping over in the local backpackers and then we riding the 4 x laps of the World Cup X-country course the following morning. After lunch – my Zulus will ride back down into the Valley. They so excited for this outing, they having sleepless nights already….
The ‘Change a Life’ Academy has now turned its focus to Paddling, especially with Dusi looming up ahead. However, those that are training for the Triple Challenge, still spend a fair amount of time on their bikes (here a major overhaul of worn drives drive chains is necessary) – I am so very grateful to Kobie for donating her old bicycle, which will go to Sizwe (hoping he will do the Cape-Epic next year) and to Michiel for purchasing a new bike for my top cyclist, John Ntuli, (45th in the 2012 Absa Cape-Epic). You have no idea how excited these 2 young lads are…. thank you.
Now having completed the annual fund raiser , ‘High Five Cycle Tour’, up in the Northern Province, I am pleased to say that 4 of my CAL Zulus (John, Mkhonzeni, Sizwe & Bethwel) played an integral part in helping behind the scenes, waking up most mornings at 2am to get the necessary done…. Great work from Usn’s Trevor & Riaan – the ice cold RecoverMax and Protein Fuel 25 after a big day in the saddle were real winners, amongst all the other Usn treats provided – thanks guys.
Expresso TV shoot
Expresso (via Usn) host Liesel van de Westhuizen visited our home to get the inside scoop re my Change a Life Academy. It was aired on the 14th Sept, here is the YouTube link to the show.
She also interviewed John Ntuli & Kwanda Mhlophe, which will be aired in a separate time slot.
A huge thanks to USN, as this was great exposure for my CAL Academy and for their continued support of my ‘Change a Life’ Academy – with the popular Muscle Fuel, fondly called the ‘Milkshake’ and CytoPower the foundation of its success.
Canoe Nite Race
Many of my CAL Zulus did a 15km Canoe Nite race in ‘Maritzburg – Paddling on the Flat water of Campsdrift, the pace was explosive – The best results were: Lucas 10th, with Kwanda a close 12th and was 3rd u/23. CAL U16 paddler, Mthobisi was the 4th Junior (which is U18). Mpilo Zondi was the 1st U/14 and got a little cash prize.
Lucas says to me after the race – “I think it was Mpilo’s first prize money ever, in that he didn’t want to show us how much was in the envelope, I even asked him to open it but he was too shy. He is so very happy”
Jock Claasens Canoe Race
This popular Canoe Race is on a forgiving part of the Umgeni River, just below Albert Falls Dam.
The start is chaotic, as Paddlers run 50m with canoes, jostling for position to begin racing downstream for 16km.
Results: Lucas-6th, Eric-7th, Kwanda-8th, Mhlonishwa-11th, Mmeli-13th, Nhlanhla-18th, Emmanuel-38th, Bethwel-51st, Mthobisi-59th U16.
Fish River Canoe Marathon (1400 paddlers) – thanks Morne from Hi-Tec for so speedily sending my Zulus the Hi-Tec ‘Durango’ bootie – the ideal Aquatic shoe for this legendary Canoe Race which involves numerous portages around dangerous weirs. The CAL Zulus had a fantastic journey in all aspects – not only fun big water paddling, but also seeing a part of the country (Eastern Cape) which is quite desolate and poverty stricken – making the Dusi Valley look like an oasis.
This exciting venture by Hi-Tec, trying to raise added awareness and funds for the Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy continues….
Please visit this link:
to see how you could “Donate your Birthday”, starts at R90…. And for that you receive a customised CAL Buff.
Going forward: This coming weekend the CAL Zulus are assisting their Lembethe Canoe Club’s hosting of the Dam 2 Dam Canoe Race. A race which helps raise funds for the Club and literally finishes in their back yard – at Nagle Dam.
‘CHANGE A LIFE’ SPORTS DAY:
Twelve of my CAL Zulus and I hosted the Change a Life Inter-Schools X Country championships at Nagle on the other day. Sport in its rawest form - Kids running barefoot as if their lives depended on it.
What a spectacular occasion….
Instead of the 14 Schools sending their 20 best runners, we reduced it to sending their 10 best. This was necessary due to the increased number of School’s participating, so as to give the kids a more memorable experience and allow us to keep a “handle on the occasion” – providing an all round great experience – DJ blasting Music, lunch afterwards, Cash Prizes to top 5 individuals in the girl & boy categories for Junior and High School. Then also an overall cash Prize going to the winning Junior and High School. A change from the “eat as much as you can” at the Spur (which was generously donated by Spur) & Movie.
African Time saw the kids line up, barefoot and raring to GO! Their faces resembling the innocent eagerness of a child about to receive a treat – oblivious to the heart thumping, lung burning deal that lay waiting ahead.
Just before the start, my CAL Running League Coordinator John Ntuli said to me, “Mart, watch just how fast they run!” “I know how fast they can run,” I replied. “No,” said John with a big grin, “watch how fast they run now because there is money to be won!”
My Goodness, was he spot on – their little leg turnover was incredible. Both Junior 3km and Senior 7km routes are tough, each with a defining Hill climb. Some blew spectacularly, whilst others paced themselves to perfection. The USN Cytopower awaiting at the Finish was the Cherry on Top.
This occasion is something to experience and so I give you an open invitation to come and join us for the next Inter Schools X-Country Champs down in the Valley of a Thousand hills. Come enjoy the run or give a helping hand.
Nhlanhlayayebuze High School, coached by CAL Nhlanhla Cele, absolutely dominated the High Schools, placing 1st to 5th overall.
Sansikane Primary School, coached by CAL Bethwil Ngidi, won the Junior School Title.
A huge thanks to ’Change a Life’, USN & Hi-Tec for their ongoing support of my CAL academy, something which is very close to my Heart.
Varsity College Multi Sport Race – Albert Falls Dam – easy access with a magnificent setting, an abundance of game - trails going every which way, on the edge of a beautiful Dam. This is the same event where last year Eben van der Spuy was spectacularly knocked off his bike by a Red Hartebeest – by chance the incident was recorded on a Go-pro camera and now he is famously known as ‘Buck Norris’.
The ‘Change a Life’ team for once, avoided the routine mad rush of arriving late, and were able to strategically place canoes & bikes in the respective pounds and quitely go about their business getting ready for the start, discussing strategy….
READY, GO! Eric bolted off the line like there was no tomorrow. The run is where the CAL athletes excel, the tougher the route the better. Watching from afar, startled Game skittled in all directions as competitors carved their way through the bushveld.
CAL junior paddling star, Mthobisi Cele (U16 yrs) started cautiously, this being his first Multi Sport race, pacing off his cousin Mmeli Cele.
Pumping the hills and using downhill gravity to his advantage with long strides – Eric charged into the bike transition comfortably in the lead.
CAL Paddling Coach, Lucas Mthalane, surprised many by coming off the Run top five and set off on the Bike after a super quick transition.
Before the race, there was alot of teasing, involving who would get beaten by Jeannie Dreyer [Jeannie's first Multi Sport race since giving birth to our daughter Ruby, 13 weeks ago], everyone firmly stating ‘Beaten by a girl, Never‘. For the record, it didn’t happen on the Run, but Jeannie claimed a few CAL scalps on the bike.
Lucas told me afterwards that he lost about 8 min on the Bike, when his path was obstructed with an annoyed Rhino, grunting and groaning up ahead, “this is where Jeannie and some other riders caught me, then we made our way around in the bush”, he said. CAL John Ntuli was having a stormer of a race, a fast run and a steady bike saw him lying in a podium position midway.
That is until he endo’ed over the handle bars, having the wipe-out of the day. Feeling stunned, he took his time to stand up. Assisted by a fellow rider, he got back on his bike, tried to carry on but “everything was just to sore”, resignedly, he cycled slowly straight to the finish.
Paddling conditions were near perfect – sunny with only a ripple on the water, compared to the big waves caused by the wind a few hours earlier.
Although Eric paddled off with a comfortable lead, the alliance of Kwanda & Bungi ( partnered me in our 2008 Dusi win) putting in together, could be a cause of concern, as with Cycling, the draft effect (called riding the wave or slip) has massive advantages. Luckily for Eric, Kwanda fell off Bungi’s wave midway, leaving him to grind on by himself. The easy jog with his canoe to the finish, turned into a more urgent activity for Eric, as Bungi amazingly caught up to a stones throw at the end of the canoe.
Being such good mates, whatever the result, they each would have been happy for the other.
Nhlanhla never found a rhythem, plagued by stomach cramps already on the run. He suffered quitely, but neverless, soldiered on to complete the course.
For the record, the two youngsters, Mthobisi & Mmeli were passed by Jeannie on the bike. Think they would prefered to have riden home than endure the ragging in the CAL bus driving home….
RESULTS: 1-Eric Zondi 2-Michael Mbanjwa 3-Kwanda Mhlophe 6-Lucas Mthalane 7-Nhlanhla Cele 11-Mthobisi Cele 12-Mmeli Cele 1st Woman – Jeannie Dreyer
Thanks to USN & HiTec and the Change a Life Trust for their continued belief and support of the Martin Dreyer ‘Change a Life’ Academy
35km HOUT BAY TRAIL CHALLENGE
Trail running doesn’t get any harder than this monster circumnavigation of Hout Bay. First you summit the Karbonkelberg, then once you cross the saddle of Suikerbossie, you climb to the top of Table Mountain above Oranjekloof, a leg jarring descent down to Constantia Nek, followed by the third major climb of the Day – summitting Vlakenberg. Runners then traverse across on the Hout Bay side of Constantiaberg, to descend down Chapman’s Peak and onto the Hout Bay Beach, to finish at the Harbour.
In a star studded field, John Ntuli made it onto the podium, doing Change a Life proud and to the amazement of all – doing this without having ever been on the route before. For 19 year Sizwe, never in his wildest dreams, would he have thought he would finish 1hr 20min behind John, especially when he pipped John in the 15km Trail run at Shogweni Dam the week before. But that just goes to show what ‘experience counts for’. Huge lessons were learn’t, from starting too fast, over heating due to over-dressing when the race started with a long climb, carrying too much weight – gear/liquid etc…. If Sizwe were to run this exact race next week, I have no doubt, he would take an hour off his time – such were his rookie errors. The most valuable lessons in Life are not those lectured to us by Experts, but rather those errors experienced first-hand.
What a phenomenal trip for these two Change a Lifer’s, already they are discussing where they would do what to go faster…. come next year. They were in awe of the warm hospitality with which they were received and hosted and made to feel most welcome.
I thought racing logistics in another Province would be a nightmare, but this stress was removed when Ian from Hi-Tec stepped up to the plate. Thanks Ian for playing chaperon to my Zulus, collecting them from the airport/dropping them off at the backpackers in Hout Bay/Race kit and pointing them in the right direction…. much appreciated.
The shift of my Change a Life Academy to develop a new batch of younger paddlers has been so rewarding. In the valley , so large a group of enthusiastic youngsters have been coming to training, that I needed another pair of ‘watchful eyes’, so have appointed an assistant coach, Mmeli Cele to assist current coach Lucas Mthalane.
At the end of April, Change a Life sent the ten best kids on a road-trip to participate in the SA Schools Sprint Championships at Roodeplaat Dam outside Pretoria. A big thank you to George Corbett from Europcar for sponsoring the Quantum vehicle to transport the team there.
The results speak for themselves….
Change a Life got 8 SA Champ medals with star performances going to the U16 paddlers -
- Mthobisi Cele & Ndumiso Ngcobo and the U14 paddlers – Mpilo Zondi & Nkosi Gcabashe
- Another bronze medal for Change a Life with Mpilo Zondi in u/14 K1 5000m at the SA School Champs in Gauteng.
· Sprints now over, the CAL kids are now training for Marathon, and if all goes well at the Kzn Marathon Champs, some could be on their way to compete at the SA Marathon Champs in Cape Town in June.
· Most of my senior CAL Zulus are spending time on their bicycles and also running – in preparation for Multisport run/cycle/paddle) and cycle races come June to November.
· KZN Duathlon Champs -10km run/40km bike/5km run.
John Ntuli placed 1st in the Elite Category and newcomers to this sport – Sizwe placed 5th overall however finished an incredible 1st in his Age group, winning a Gold Medal. Then novice Mzamo came in 7th overall. Well done to the Zulus of a Thousand Hills….
· John Ntuli placed the highest of my Team in the 45km Eston Husqvarna Mtb race, coming 5th overall Sizwe and Kwanda were my next best. Mzamo placed well in the Trail run option at this event.
- Sizwe is a youngster with immense talent – I have high hopes of him next year, riding the toughest Mtb race in the World,
the 8 day Absa Cape-Epic Mtb race.
Sizwe wrote to me on Sunday night and made
me chuckle, not easy to read but straight from the heart nonetheless: “Hey mart i want to say thank
you about the joining fee and the lunch money but the bod news was that l was
Sforting of the lasf batsh thot is F. and the thinys hove changed because l was
leading bash F and out did my self and caught up with the people from bash B.
would you tell you wife that her bike was moving like a car and that bike is
very fast tell her that thank u very much. And after the race we went to the
race organisers to say tgank u and thank’s mart for everything and chese mart.
Is from Sizwe”.
· The 14 CAL Schools participating in the X-Country Runs are keeping my CAL Zulus busy during the week, giving them a means of earning some ‘pocket money’ in an area with zero income earning opportunity. We are building up to
the big CAL Inter Schools competition in a few weeks on the 22nd of June.
With the intense 3 month build-up to the 2012 Dusi in Feb, I thought March would be a mellow month.
I was incorrect, infact it was one notch up.
• March kicked off with the battle of all battles in the canoeing world – the Non Stop Dusi.
It was awesome to have CEO of Computershare, Stan Lorge, come witness the CAL Zulus racing 120km from Pmb to Durban, giving their utmost & more – dealing with continual cramps and extreme fatigue in the latter part of the race, they bravely conquered their inner Demons not to give up. CAL finished:
2nd – Lance & Kwanda,
4th – Michael & Eric,
6h – Roland & Thomas
7th – Lucas & Loveday
10th – Gavin & Zonele
• Kwanda then went on to brave the mighty waters of the Umkomaas river, becoming the second Black paddler to ever complete this big water race, finishing 7th overall with his Dusi partner Lance Kime.
• Change a Life entered a team in the WarTrail Extreme Triathlon (60km Mnt run, 135 Mtb, 60km Paddle on the Orange River), which takes place in the Eastern Cape in the town of Lady Grey and finishes under the Hertzog Bridge in Aliwal North – CAL 1st Team
• Towards the end of March, the Dusi Change a Life Zulus went on Tour. Courtesy of Europcar (George Corbett), they travelled up to the desert-like Northern Cape to complete in a brand new 3 day Double Canoe race on the Orange River, called the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon. The race started in Upington and finished 120km downstream, just above the infamous Augrabies Falls. Personally I believe that such a trip adds tremendous value to the ‘outlook of life’ for these rural Zulus – as their eyes were wide open as to the harshness of the region – dry & very hot, and the poverty of the rural folk. Incredibly the “Dop System” of payment is still in practice in some places – alcoholism destroys the very fabric that holds a Family together.
CAL was 2nd Michael & Eric, 4th – Kwanda & Zonele, 5th- Skhumbuso & Nhlanhla & 10th- Mthobisi & Emanuel.
Now the green slopes of the Valley of a Thousand Hills seems a very pleasant place to Live.
• The CAL X-Country league has not managed to increase its School participation to 14 Schools yet, mostly due to the absence of the CAL running monitors, many of which have all got work outside the Valley, however the Schools CAL running program will become the focus of activities now in April.
• John Ntuli and I have just completed the World famous 8 Day staged race down in the Cape – the Absa Cape-Epic. It was an incredible experience and a true test of human endurance. I believe John comes out of this race, a changed person, realising just how far he can push his body and mind. We finished 45th overall out of 604 Teams.
The Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon came to an end on Saturday afternoon in Blue Lagoon, Durban. An estimated 1 800 paddlers took to the three day 110km treacherous course with the hopes of being the next title holders. Defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham became the first pair in 22 years to win back-to-back K2 titles when they won the final stage of the Dusi to claim the 61st edition of the race in a time of 2:15:17 and an overall time of 7:43:02.
The Change a Life team of Mbanjwa and Zondi finally had a trouble-free day after facing all sorts of problems in the opening two days. First was the issue of the broken rudder and seats while the second saw them tipping over in a massive pool at Marianni Foley which made it close to impossible to take the lead from Birkett and Graham in the last 35kms between Inanda Dam and Blue Lagoon.
The team demonstrated powerful running and paddling ability as they took on the gruelling Burma Road portage. Mbanjwa and Zondi pulled out all the stops in the attempt to catch up with Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins but fell short and were rewarded by finishing third on the podium after they crossed the line in an overall time of 7:54.24. With support from the Minister of Sports in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Mayor of Durban, injuries and minor setbacks did not deter the spirit of the Change a Life village champions who managed to finish with five boats in the top 20.
Kwanda Mhlophe and Lance Kime had a flawless race finishing 4th and were awarded gold medals. Mmeli Cele, paddling with Lucas Mthalane, came in 9th also received gold – and what a happy ending after last year’s tragedy when his boat broke and he had to withdraw from a junior race he had completely dominated and give up R9 000 in prize money, a fortune for a subsistence family.
The Silver medal recipients were Thomas Ngidi and John Ngcobo who came in 12th, this represented a massive victory for Thomas who had a bad fall on Day 1 but decided, bravely, to press on. The final pair of paddlers to come in the Top 20 was Skhumbuzo Ngidi with partner Nkosi Cele who came in 20th.
The results for the rest of the Change a life team who were in the Top 100 are as follows:
› Zonele Nkuza and Mhlonishwa Hlongwane – 27th
› Mthobisie Cele u16 and Emmanuel Kirk u17 were the young paddlers racing u18 and they came 73rd
› Paulos Shozi and Thembinkosi Ngcobo came 75th
› Richard and his brother Nhlanhla Cele came 98th
The Cele brothers were lying in 7th position on Day 1 but due to an ankle injury Richard had to carry the boat on his own on day 2 and 3 while his brother hopped along right beside him using the paddle as a crutch. Richard said that “plan A was to finish in the Top 10, plan B was to finish in the Top 20 and plan C was to FINISH. Martin is not only impressed by the performance of Zonele Nkuza, who although he has not yet made it into the Change a Life team, finished an impressive 27th, but also by of the courage and determination the team demonstrated after the many challenges they encountered on Day 1.
Ursula was at the finish line watching as all the Change a life paddlers came in and said “It’s always so exhilarating watching the guys finish the race knowing that they did their very best. The Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy has not only transformed these young men into world class athletes but also local heroes to whom the village youngsters can look up and strive to be like. The energy and excitement from the locals who come out in their numbers to support their village heroes is overwhelming.”