up the Jam
"The Absa Cape Epic has always been something I have wanted to do, a dream. Being here is a really good thing for me.”
“I am proud every day I climb on my bicycle. Every time I race. That always makes me so proud. And now I am at the Absa Cape Epic.”
Lesotho XCO champion Tumelo Makae smiles as he does his best to recover from a brutal, wind-swept Stage 1 of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic. He and his South African partner on Team Pump for Peace, Unathi Nxumalo, finished the day well inside the top 100, and 12th in the Absa African Men category.
There is a lot to be proud of, not just being on the bike today but representing his country and the international Pump for Peace pro team at the Tour de France of mountain biking. Pump For Peace is a global initiative by Velosolutions, a global cycling track builder with partners in more than 20 countries, introducing kids to a healthy, respectful, and tolerant lifestyle. The calm maturity of both riders in the stressful post-stage cauldron is evidence of early success.
“For me, coming from Lesotho, it is hard to compete at the highest level. So, the team helps us to be able to race in the World Cups and the biggest events in the world. And it helps me to motivate others to be their best, too. If they see what I can achieve, then they can believe in themselves and know that it is possible for them too. The Absa Cape Epic has always been something I have wanted to do, a dream. Being here is a really good thing for me.”
As they sip hot soup on the finish line, sheltered from the icy Hermanus wind by the formidably experienced Pump for Peace backup crew led by former champion Ariane Lüthi, 20-year-old Nxumalo reflected on a tough day, and a tough start to his maiden Absa Cape Epic. “Today was very hard, we started quite well but then I got very tired. But Tumelo helped me all the way, and we are at the finish now so I can recover, and we can get better in the week.”
The scale of the Absa Cape Epic has surprised Nxumalo, even though he is already a regular racer at all the major XCO events in Southern Africa. “It is mind blowing, but I am loving it” As is team manager Lüthi. “He is highly motivated and skilled and has enough experience to race XCO at a World Cup level. We are hoping to see him develop further when getting more exposure to international racing through our team.” The Absa Cape Epic is arguably the best exposure a young racer can get, and as the pair moves gently up the results sheets, their names are being noted by local and foreign riders alike.
Only 24, a remarkably mature Makae already has his sights set on the next generation of racers from Lesotho. “I am looking forward, and if I can be a mentor for the next Lesotho XCO racers, that is where I want to be. To help them to learn and improve and be the best riders they can.”