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Makae bags Swiss MTB championship

Leemisa Thuseho

LESOTHO’S top mountain bike (MTB) rider, Tumelo Makae, was yesterday crowned champion in the mixed team category of this year’s Swiss Epic MTB race alongside his South African partner, Cherie Redecker.

Makae and Redecker competed as the Velosolutions #Pumpforpeace team in the gruelling five-day race that started on 18 August and ended yesterday in Davos, Switzerland. The male and female team completed the 350 km epic race in a total time of 20:27:11.

The duo got off to a good start by winning the first stage when they clocked 4:15:07. The pair also won on the second day when it clocked 4:26:58. In the third stage, they clocked 3:10:43 while the time for stage four was 4:40:54. The team kept up its good performance when it won the race after completing the final stage in 4:06:34.

The Swiss Epic is an annual MTB stage race held in the Canton of Grisons, Switzerland. It has been accredited as ‘hors categorie’ (beyond categorisation) by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). It was inspired by the Cape Epic, the annual MTB stage race covering about 700km and 16 000m of mounting bike climbing, held in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Makae is in Switzerland under a Lesotho Tokyo 2020 Olympic Athletes Solidarity Scholarship through Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC). His scholarship to train at the World Cycling Training Centre (WCTC) commenced in 2017 and was expected to end this month. However, it has now been extended to next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo Olympic Games were meant to be held in July and August this year but have now been postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Makae was stuck in Switzerland when his fellow athletes left for their respective home countries in March this year when the Covid-19 broke out. He failed to travel home in time due to the closure of South Africa airspace since there were no direct flights to Lesotho.

Federation of Cycling Lesotho (FCL) president Rammotang Makatile, told the Sunday Express on Friday that Makae’s failure to make it to Lesotho during the Covid-19 lockdown was a blessing in disguise. He said Makae could not have received an opportunity to contest in the Swiss Epic MTB competition.

“He wanted to come home in March because all athletes at the (WCTC) were released to go back home countries and again, it was off season. The other issue was that his scholarship ending and we didn’t know what was to happen thereafter.

“We were also frustrated and wanted him to come back home. Fortunately, the scholarship was extended while he was still stuck in Switzerland after the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games.

“I can say the failure to bring him home was a blessing in disguise because Switzerland was quick to relax their lockdown regulations and some sporting activities, including cycling,” Makatile said.

He said Makae’s performance at the 2020 Swiss Epic MTB race proved that the rider was on the right path towards qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games. Although Makae has been specialising in MTB racing, he added, FCL would also recommend him to compete in road cycling.

“We got some reports from UCI in Switzerland that Makae was also doing well in road races, therefore, they advised us to recommend him for road cycling. We hope that the move will broaden his career,” Makatile said.

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