Germany's Karl Platt (R) and Switzerland's Urs Huber (L) of Team Bulls cross the finish line to win the 103km Stage 3 of the 2016 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike race near Wellington. Photo: KIM LUDBROOK
CAPE TOWN - The Absa Cape Epic 2017 kicks off on Monday with UCT Graduate School of Business alumnus Mervyn Christoffels taking part in hopes of raising money for talented but financially disadvantaged students wishing to enrol in the MBA programme at the school.

Christoffels, 44, hopes this fund-raising drive will raise the profile of his "Epic Scholarship" and encourage others to embark on similar "epic" fund-raising initiatives.

“This idea has been with me for some time, to find a way to help sponsor students to complete an MBA,” said Christoffels, who will compete with professional cyclists. 

The gruelling 691km marathon stage race involves 15400m of climbing untamed terrain and has been described as the "Tour de France of mountain biking", with over 600 international teams participating.

Christoffels completed his MBA in 2006 and credits his studies at the GSB with transforming his life and career, shaping his thinking and empowering him to become a change agent.

“From the initial idea to ride and fund-raise, the Epic Scholarship was born, to offer a channel through which other alumni who complete epic events and journeys, like this race, can raise funds and contribute towards a scholarship that will help a deserving candidate complete an MBA.”

Christoffels will be riding with team partner Grant Goodwin as Team GSB Foundation and they hope this will raise awareness for their cause.

Over eight days in the Western Cape, local and international teams will test their mettle in harsh weather and road conditions. For most cyclists, getting through the race is enough of a challenge. But for Christoffels, who is from a previously disadvantaged background and a benefactor of a sponsored MBA from Brandon Bekker, the race is also about making people aware of the need to become involved in shaping future business leaders.

“Sadly, a business education is still beyond the reach of many,” he said.

Cape Argus