at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
After riding in the Junior Tour in 2013 13-year-old Thapelo Moletsane is ready to tackle the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour on March 9.
It will be his first time in the official race, but he’ll be part of a decade-long legacy.
This year the Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy is celebrating 10 years since its first group entry in the Cycle Tour.
The non-profit organisation, based in Khayelitsha, gives children from disadvantaged communities a chance to break into the cycling world.
Situated on a field with a BMX track, beside several donated shipping containers that have been converted into a tidy kitchen, changing rooms and living space, the organisation offers about 70 active members a safe place to do homework and stay fit.
“It’s a place that keeps me away from all the things that happen on the streets,” Thapelo said.
Velokhaya cyclists will not be racing for speed, but in solidarity.
Alongside 10 managers, 70 kids will ride under the Velokhaya banner this year, including eight first-time entrants.
Sipho Mona, Velokhaya’s operations manager, said being part of the bunch on Cycle Tour day was a capstone to the training Velokhaya riders do year-round.
“For most members that’s their vision and goal; to ride the (Cycle Tour). It’s the most glorious cycling event.”
Thapelo has been coming to Velokhaya for four years and just met the cut-off age for the tour.
He said training has been challenging – they practise for one and a half to three hours Tuesdays through Thursdays, with additional rides at weekends.
Thapelo is nervous about the hills on the Cycle Tour, but said he’s mostly excited and thinks he will be able to stay motivated: “I think about the training that they gave me… the way I feel when I’m riding a bike.”
Abongile Mpangisana, 16, is another new entrant.
He started coming to Velokhaya last year, and said despite the difficult training, the time had been enjoyable because they do it as a group.
Echoing the feeling, first-timer Thulani Antoni, 15, said: “When you ride the Cape Argus you’ve got to be tough. What keeps me motivated is when I’m in a group, I feel motivated by the other guys.”