Cycling sensation Zanele Tshoko – who represents South Africa on the international scene – speaks to Leletu Gxuluwe about her journey as a professional cyclist from Khayelitsha, what it takes to be a young woman in the sport and the upcoming 40th edition of the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
How did you get involved with cycling?
Next week I will be 24 years old and I have been cycling since I was 12. I was introduced to an organisation called Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy in the later years of my primary schooling. My intention at the time was simply to learn about riding a bicycle to ease the commuting between home and school. Through exposure to coaches, cycling events, safe cycling methods, road laws and other key learning, I quickly realised that this more than just commuting – it was an opportunity to make a success of my life.
How has the journey as a professional cyclist, travelling the world, been so far?
I’m certainly grateful for all the support that has been afforded to me by my family, sponsors and friends. I am now in a position where my success is in my hands. Through discipline, determination, passion and a hunger for success, I can only look forward to my future as a cyclist with beaming hope.
How hard is it for black women to get involved with the sport?
It’s certainly not the easiest sport to pursue as a female of any colour, but it is particularly risky in the townships due to high levels of crime, violence and scarcity of resources. I cannot overstate how expensive the equipment is. All of these reasons are not encouraging to young girls to even consider this unpopular sport. One would be more to likely find a soccer or netball team than a cycling academy in the townships. Inaccessibility is a huge factor that I hope will be resolved through extending cycling academies.
What does cycling mean to you?
Cycling means doing something that I love and that I’m passionate about and for a while it was a form of sanctuary that kept me positive despite everything that was happening in my community. The selfless love and support I get from my family and friends have been inspiring. It really helps me to keep pushing and to stay focused on achieving my goals. A highlight was, without a doubt, representing my country as that had been a dream of mine for a while. It was an honour and I look forward to doing it again in the near future. I have learnt so much in the past few years about the sport to the extent that I am now able to face challenging situations.
How does it feel to be a well-known cyclist from Khayelitsha?
A bit of fame has its ups and downs. I am lucky to have met so many friendly and caring people through cycling. I am where I am today thanks to such levels of support. I’m content, grateful for all the support I do receive. I can only look forward to being in a position where I can support young, upcoming female cyclists myself.
Are you excited about participating in the 40th anniversary of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, which coincides with the 160th birthday of the Cape Argus?
It is amazing that we as a country have such a huge platform for cyclists. I really hope the Cape Argus and the Cycle Tour will keep being a shining light and that they will continue growing to attract more people to the sport.
What is your goal for the 2017 Cape Town Cycle Tour?
I unfortunately have not (won it yet) but I am working on it. Watch this space.