Preparations for the fourth edition of the annual Lesotho Sky Mountain Bike Stage Race are at an advanced stage, according to the founder of the annual showcase, Christian Schmidt.
Schmidt told the Sunday Express that 14 Basotho riders are ready to take-on their 56 international counterparts during the 21- 26 September race.
The 380-kilometre ride is set for Maseru and Mafeteng districts, and has become one of the most popular mountain-bike races in the world. The inaugural Lesotho Sky Race took place from 13-18 November 2011, with 22 riders taking part.
“Preparations for the event are going well; we have learnt a lot from the past three editions of the race. In this business, it is all about experience and expertise. We are a team of five people who have been working full-time on this event over the past few months,” Schmidt said.
According to Schmidt, the winner is set to walk away M10 000-richer, while the runner-up and third-placed rider pocket M8 000 and M6 000, respectively.
“A total of 66 riders have confirmed their participation so far, and 14 of these are from Lesotho, 22 from Europe and 30 from South Africa,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt noted the race is meant to market Lesotho as a world-class tourist destination, and an ideal country for outdoor sport such as mountain-biking.
“In addition to marketing Lesotho as a prime destination for outdoor sport, the Lesotho Sky seeks to develop cycling in this country and involve as many Basotho as possible in the sport.”
Schmidt also told the Sunday Express that the competition has been growing steadily over the years, and continues to get a positive response both locally and internationally.
“Every year, we have more international entries, which means both the event and Lesotho are becoming more popular every year.
“Our sponsors have also given us more money to invest into the event. We want to grow Lesotho Sky into the biggest sporting event in the region and we are on the path of achieving this goal.”
However, Schmidt said the current political instability in the country is the biggest threat to the event.
“Bad headlines are not good for any event and we hope that reason prevails over the coming days and weeks. The leaders of Lesotho owe us the creation of an environment in which we, as citizens, can pursue our goals and flourish. There are negative stories to tell about any place in the world but we are focusing on success stories and the rich and inspiring history of Lesotho.”
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