WINDHOEK, NOV 4 – – With only one month to go for the longest single-stage mountain bike race in Namibia and beyond, local cyclists are getting ready to make their mark.
On Friday, 10 December to Saturday, 11 December 2021, cyclists from all over the world will race 393km from the Grove Mall in Windhoek to Swakopmund’s Platz am Meer.
One participating team, the NCCS Development Team are very excited to take part in this annual event. The group comprises 11 members, including two managers, Ebben Iita, the Team Principal, and Jacob Kiyola the Sport Director. The members of the four-man team are Jan Montshioa, Philleno Sebona, Zarvier Papo and Markernzy Eiseb, while Gustav Basson and Junior de Koe make up the two-man team.
Kiyola says their participation in the race is not about the destination, but the journey. “This is one of the biggest races on the Namibia cycling calendar. It’s great exposure for the team on both national and international levels, and we cannot miss such an opportunity.” He adds that it is one of the most exciting and challenging competitions in the country and has grown tremendously over the years.
The race runs through the Khomas Hochland and the Namib Desert to the Atlantic coast. The adventure not only takes stamina and will-power to compete and complete the race, but it is also about exploring the breathtaking desert environment filled with cactus, grasses, and shrubs, as well as steep and incredible downhill runs.
The team is up for the test, as they have been training regularly. They cover an approximate distance of 50 kilometers off-road daily and about 150 km over weekends in and around Windhoek. In spite of such a daunting task ahead for the team, the sport director is confident that they can make it to the finish line.
About their future plans, Kiyola said that participating internationally in events such as the Union Cycliste Internationale in South Africa, as well as other competitions on the African continent, is the way to move forward. “We plan to become the first Namibian UCI continental team,” he said confidently.
He said cycling is not only a sport code, it is also good for the heart, which means good health. In terms of the environment, cycling involves no carbon emission, which is a way to protect the environment and society at large. In addition, it’s a better transportation system. As part of the way forward to make this sport code a success, Kiyola is determined that cycling needs the vision and optimism to accomplish a goal. In a message of encouragement to the youth, Kiyola urged them to take up cycling from a young age.
In a message to future participants in the competition, Kiyola said: “Know what you want and go for it! The 393 km from Windhoek to Swakopmund sounds impossible, but you can do it.”
The NCCS Development Team wants to do more for the community, but lack of funding is a challenge. The team has recruited a few riders between 14 years to 16 years from Katutura and rural areas. Through this initiative, they provide training and develop cycling skills from a grass root level till professional level.
To date, Nedbank Namibia has invested more than N$7 million in the Desert Dash. Nedbank’s commitment to promoting sport started in 1986, when the very first competitive cycling race in Namibia was hosted with just over 80 participants. Now, the largest cycling event on the Namibian sporting calendar, the Nedbank Cycle Challenge—also known as the ‘Greatest Ride Under the Sun’—attracts over a thousand cyclists annually in all of its facets.
Speaking earlier at the official launch of the event, Richard Meeks of Nedbank Namibia said that 2021 is a year for the history books with regard to achievements in Namibia’s sports fraternity. “Each year we’ve been thrilled to see so many participants, as well as their friends and family who travel to Swakopmund to support them. We are confident that the race has a significant influence on the economy of Swakopmund, and that it provides an ideal opportunity to promote Namibia as a fascinating tourist destination,” an excited Meeks said.
Some say cycling is not a game, it is a sport. Some also say cycling is tough, hard and unpitying and requires great sacrifices. But Kiyola is determined that the NCCS Team have the guts to finish this once-in-a-lifetime event.