Pietermaritzburg – After finishing in a highly commendable fourth place with team mate Bongumusa Zikhali in the inaugural BSi Steel dusi2c in 2013, RMB Change a Life coach and star rider John Ntuli will be back in this year but this time he will be pairing up with fellow Change a Life Academy member Nduniso Dontso for the two-stage mountain bike race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on 21 & 22 June.
Ntuli has been largely involved in spreading the sport of mountain biking to the youth of the Valley of a Thousand Hills and, with the Change a Life Academy growing continuously, the process of incorporating new riders and retaining current stars has become more stringent recently.
“We have a lot of youngsters wanting to join the academy,” Ntuli said. “We have an interview with the guys and then take them out on a ride to see how they cope and whether they look like they could be trained into strong riders.”
Ntuli and the RMB Change a Life Academy have the unique advantage of riding through their own backyard, so to speak, during the dusi2c as the race’s route follows the Msunduzi and the Mngeni Rivers from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban, something that Ntuli believes plays into the local lads’ hands perfectly.
“We are training down there in the valley six times a week so we know the area and the trails really well!
“Riding down in the valley, close to our community, is also very special because we have the support of all the people who see us riding.
“My family has always been very supportive of me in my riding and I think it is great that the younger guys in the valley can now see us competing well in some these bigger races as this means their interest keeps growing which is exciting for us,” an animated Ntuli added.
With his vast cycling experience, relaying some of the lessons he has already learnt on to the younger riders at the academy is vital. Balancing his time between mentoring the academy’s young stars and competing as a top mountain biker himself can prove tricky though.
“The younger guys are always wanting to ride with me and gain some experience from me, and I want to pass on as much of my knowledge as possible to them, but stage races like dusi2c are difficult environments for that to happen so this year I am riding with Ndumiso (Dontso), who I also rode joberg2c with.
“Last year I rode dusi2c with Bongumusa (Zikhali), so I am trying to share as much as I can with as many of the younger guys as possible,” he explained.
Despite having finished just short of a podium spot in the 2013 edition of the dusi2c, Ntuli is still reluctant to exclaim their hopes for a podium place in 2014 however he and Dontso will still be fighting hard to get into the top three.
“The race is going to be really tough, we know that, but if we could get into the top three this year that would be great for us and for the Academy,” a cautious Ntuli admitted.
Being part of a stage race such as the dusi2c which goes through a community that he knows so well, is something that encourages Ntuli throughout the race and he enjoys being able to showcase his talent to the people of his community.
“When we ride past the people that we know, there is a little bit of pressure on us but we don’t really feel it because we know they are proud of us and doing well in such a big race like dusi2c is something that we, the riders, enjoy and the community is proud of!” Ntuli beamed.
Change a Life Academy founder Martin Dreyer fully appreciates how stage racing is something that has become an integral part of the mountain biking calendar in South Africa and the seven time Dusi Canoe Marathon winner believes these races are great opportunities for his academy’s riders to be network with people from different cultures and another way that they can grow both as people and as riders.
“I think that the stage races are a phenomenal platform for the guys to interact with other people. It is such a unique interaction with everyone being in the same place overnight and eating the same food. This means that the socio-economic circumstances become irrelevant.
“Interacting like this can be intimidating for the guys early on but when they are on the bike, they realise that they are stronger than the majority of the people they ride against and this sort of confidence can only help them,” Dreyer explained.
The 2014 instalment of the dusi2C will see the introduction of race title sponsors, BSi Steel, as a temporary race sponsor of the Change a Life Academy after the steel giants recently confirmed their support of Dreyer’s academy via two entries for the race with Ntuli and Dontso being one of the two Change a Life teams to gain by this gesture.
More information can be found at www.dusi2c.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media