Exxaro enables teams to race for the prize of education.
The Exxaro Special Jersey competition is one of the Absa Cape Epic’s most enduring success stories. What started out as a simple fundraising ride in the 2011 event (three Exxaro-sponsored teams raised more than R1.5-million) was swiftly upgraded to headline sponsorship of the event, a partnership that celebrates a decade of delivering hope, education, upliftment, and adventure in 2022.
Outwardly, Exxaro’s involvement in the development race provides the Absa Cape Epic with one of its most hotly-contested and followed races. But it’s the action away from the race that is the real win with this program; education has, since the beginning, been an important focus of the evolution of the Exxaro Special Jersey competition. In 2021 it was taken to new heights as Curro Holdings and Stadio Higher Education offered the winners, and runners up, the choice of a bursary for a child for Grade 1 – Grade 12 at any Curro school in South Africa, or the opportunity to pursue a higher education qualification or diploma via one of Stadio’s Distance Learning Programmes.
Education has, since the beginning, been an important focus of the evolution of the Exxaro Special Jersey competition
This is the type of legacy that makes Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgogo most proud. “This Jersey has presented young people with opportunities they otherwise would never have had. It has motivated them to work hard, through the various academies that provided the means and the methodology to reach the Absa Cape Epic.”
The same educational rewards are on offer in the 2022 event, but 2021 winners Lorenzo Le Roux and Luyanda Thobigunya won’t be in the running… they have moved on and have their sights set on the Absa African Jersey, racing with the pros. The Exxaro Special Jersey has helped springboard many riders in ten years, not just Exxaro-sponsored ones. “While I love seeing riders from the Exxaro MTB Academy succeed, I’m as excited to watch the Citi Change a Life Academy, Velokhaya, songo.info, Fairtree Academy and McGregor Young Warriors winning. But I’m more excited to hear of their victories off the bike: stories of riders going back to finish school, completing tertiary qualifications, finding, and thriving in good jobs”
"Stories of riders going back to finish school, completing tertiary qualifications, finding, and thriving in good jobs”
The Exxaro Academy is running five teams at the 2022 race, coached by Timo Cooper. “We have three Men’s teams and two Mixed, which is new for us but is working out really well.” Cooper has been tasked with the on-the-bike education at the academy for a little over a year now. “They run very similar programs to the pros. But it goes deeper than just riding lots of hours (they end up doing 15-16 hours a week, but never more than 22, they are still young!); Exxaro gives them the opportunity to all stay in the same accommodation in Lynnwood, so it’s easier to keep track of their progress and manage nutrition and workshops on things like how to handle social media.”
The three Men’s teams top the Exxaro Special Jersey leaderboard halfway through the 2022 Untamed African MTB Race, with Halalisani Ndebele and Tlotlo Selala lying 46th overall, a handful of places ahead of former Exxaro Special Jersey winner Phillimon Sebona, and last year’s champions. “I’m so proud of them. They work so hard at this, and the Academy hasn’t won the Exxaro jersey for a while now. The whole podium, is such a deserved reward.”
“Talent has been identified. Talent has been nurtured. Talent has been groomed."
“You must watch Tlotlo and Halalisani. In two years, they will be top-level contenders if we nurture them carefully for the mental stress of professional racing - not throw them into the deep end like we tend to do with athletes in this country. We haven’t scraped the surface of what they can do on a bicycle.”
“Talent has been identified. Talent has been nurtured. Talent has been groomed. To be the top of the top.” Mgogo’s dreams for his riders are on track. “This jersey, for us, represents not just hope but also symbolises a vision of what this country could be if we work together across all races, across all classes.”
Stay tuned in to the race for the green Exxaro Special Jerseys to see who will claim the win when we arrive at Val de Vie Estate on Sunday 27 March.