Sunday, 18 September 2016

GOOD NEWS TRAVELS FAST... The WeChat-McGregor MTB cycling team . Adapted by the Breede Centre from the original article by Paul Panos


Some time past midday on Sunday 11th of September, 2016, the 3rd and last day of the Ride2Nowhere, I was on my way to visit a friend. As I left the premises, in the road, beyond the back gate, were four young men on bicycles. Having just completed stage 3 on the final day of the event, they had come hot-footed and triumphant to share their news and were enthusiastically engaged in an animated conversation over the gate with Suenel and the Breede Centre’s Pieter Holloway.

There was a festive feeling to it. The lads were fired up. I sensed that something good had happened, and it had. Here in the street before me was four sevenths of the WeChat-McGregor MTB Cycling Team that had just competed as First Timers in the gruelling Ride2Nowhere.

The good news was that in a field of seasoned riders and professionals, with only a month and a half to train from scratch for the event, all seven of our McGregor competitors got to the finish line in all three stages, including among the top 30 First Timers in the first stage. Even more remarkable individual results were returned by certain members of the team.

During the initial stages of setting up the Ride2Nowhere event in McGregor, the sponsor, WeChat, was concerned that McGregor would not have a home team competing in the race.

This apparently was unacceptable to them, so ... ‘n boer maak ‘n plan ...


The Ride2Nowhere has come and gone. The village has settled back on its heels and resumed its leisurely routines. All is back to normal. For the members of the WeChat-McGregor MTB team, life will never be the same again... They have come from nowhere and after the experience are going somewhere.

From just being ordinary members of their community and going from day to day living out routines of their conventional student lives they were catapulted into an exciting new action oriented milieu that demanded that they sit up and take notice.

First came the surprise opportunity ... word had gone out from the Breede Skills Centre that WeChat, along with Ride2Nowhere, was wanting to sponsor a local MTB team and that those who were interested should apply for selection.

WeChat, an organisation that was concerned with community, provided seven team mountain bikes and footed the bill for the cost of competing.

Ride2Nowhere picked up the spirit of the idea and sponsored the cost of entry for the WeChat-Mcgregor team. Max, a professional rider, organised sponsored riding gear. The Breede Skills Centre fulfilled the role of Co-ordinator and was the glue that kept it all together.

After that it was INSPIRATION, PERSPIRATION, CO-ORDINATION AND CO-OPERATION all the way to get the team ship-shape and onto the starting line one and a half months hence. A big ask ... how would our First Time Competitors meet the challenge?

Dawid Booysen, of amiable character and ease of manner and the only young adult in the team, filled me in on the process...

“How did you get involved?” I asked.

“I was at the Centre when the bikes arrived. It was exciting. I was inspired by the opportunity. I felt the need to get involved ... to get fit. I could manage the team. So that’s what happened.”

“How did it go from there?”

“From the applicants, Con Viljoen of Ride2Nowhere identified seven potential competitors. Six were finally selected and I took the seventh spot so I could manage the team and the riding.”

“Do you know if any of the applicants had any race experience?”

“They had bikes to get around, but that’s about it. There had to be a training schedule followed by a lot of hard work.”

“How did that all happen?”

“The training was overseen by Stephan Viljoen and Max. On week days we met at 5pm and concentrated on technique. Mostly we rode on short courses on single track.”


“Stephan Viljoen allowed us to ride the single track MTB routes on his farm at Steenbokvlakte.”

“What did you do about building up endurance? Surely you had to get some kilometres on your legs?”

“That’s for sure. On Saturdays we did long distance endurance rides of around 60 kilometres.”

“Were all the team members up to it?”

“We were all into it. We were really pumped. To us it was getting into the big-time and we were going to make the most of it.”

At this point I was non-plussed that these young competitors with a history of only casual daily riding behind them could become credible competitors with such limited preparation and deliver admirable performances in an event that was a challenge even to professionals. It sounded like pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking to me.

I am an ex-cyclist, and over the years having ridden the majority of tracks and back roads around McGregor on a regular basis, I had a good idea of the calibre of the achievement.
In the end I had to put the success down to youthful strength and fitness. The real news was the transformative effect.

After chatting to each of the team members in turn I have no doubt that the Ride2Nowhere challenge, in which they took part with distinction, has given them all a boost in self-esteem, self-belief, and self-respect.

Recognition from parents and the pride they took in their boys was a wonderful confirmation of self-worth for all the participants.

They have become “somebody” in their community and engender respect and admiration wherever they go. Pivotal is that they have become role models for the younger children.

They found that their peers looked up to them ... and regarded them as heroes.

Most significant was the fact that they had proved their self-worth to themselves and could take themselves seriously. There seemed to be a burgeoning of a will to achieve something in life. If any benefit from their participation in the event should be treasured, this is it.

From my point of view I sensed in these boys a new assertiveness and inner confidence ... but where will that go and how will that be applied after the initial flush of triumph and recognition?

Well, the Breede Skills Centre, in its drive to enable self-empowerment in the community, has thought of that. It will assume a continuity role and organise new rides and ongoing participation in events on the MTB Calender - next up is the Van Loveren Event. To complete the process, it will also develop a girls team.

Certainly, The Ride2Nowhere has come and gone, but it has served as a catalyst. The effect will be enduring and the McGregor community will reap the benefits for a long time to come.

Adapted by the Breede Centre from the original  article by PAUL PANOS

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