VETERAN cyclist Phethetso Monese clocked 3:17:06 to defend his 66-kilometre Nedbank National Mountain Bike championship in Roma yesterday.
In the female category, the 33 km race was won by newbie Tebello Mofa who clocked 3:32:02 to beat long time champion Likeleli Masitise.
The annual event that is bankrolled by Nedbank Lesotho to the tune of M75 000, saw teenager Eric Ramohanoe finishing second (3:22:31) while Katleho Manasi finished third in the elite race clocking 3:29:05.
Monese, who lost out to Tumelo Makae in last weekend’s Nedbank Cross Country championship said he was happy to defend his title.
“It is always a great feeling to win and I am happy that today I have won,” Monese said.
“Last weekend I lost to Makae who always gives me problems. I had hoped for a clean sweep this year but lost last weekend.”
Monese said the route was challenging but his experience came in handy.
“There was little competition from the other riders and the only challenge was the difficult route. However, my experienced worked for me.”
He said 2019 has been one of his busiest years for him with back to back races.
“I have been very busy this year with several races but I have been focused. Today’s race was also my last lap of preparations for next weekend’s Lesotho Sky race,” he said.
On her part Mofo said she was happy to finally dethrone Masitise.
“It was tough race and I am happy that I managed to beat Likeleli today. It was a tough competition between us. She has always dominated and I am happy to have finally beaten her.
“Whenever she is around, we know it’s going to be tough competition. We always target the second spot when she is around because she always beats us. Her experience makes it difficult to compete against her because she has been riding on different platforms all over the world,” the 20-year-old Mofo said.
Nedbank Lesotho head of corporate and investment banking Teboho Shelile said the race has improved in the three years they have been sponsoring it.
“This is our third year sponsoring this race and it has shown massive growth but there are always areas that we can improve,” Shelile said.
Shelile said their target is to unearth riders who will one day compete on international stages.
“We want to have riders who can ride international in international tournaments and that cannot be achieved overnight. It takes many milestones and we still have a long way to go.”
Shelile also challenged other corporates to help in investing in sports.
“Other corporates should also come on board. That will encourage athletes and improve competition between them when they know they are going to get something out of it. Alliance Insurance Company is already doing it and sponsoring The Sufferfest team.
“Our yard stick should be global and there are only a couple of athletes at this moment who can compete globally. We want to build a hub of cyclists that we know can achieve that.
“We hope our cyclists will finish their races the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That gives us hope that in the next edition of the Olympics we can target some top 10 finishes. It is going to take us a long time but we will eventually get there.
“Ramohanoe is one of the best prospects of this country and we have to invest in him. He is still young and has got potential but we can’t do it alone as Nedbank. Other corporates need to come on board and help the athletes,” Shelile concluded.