From unicycles to fancy dress, the 947 Cycle Challenge has seen almost everything in the name of charity, but Rupert the French bulldog will be a first.
He will line up at Riversands Commerical Park in Johannesburg for his debut cycle race as the first ever canine entrant.
Rupert, pulled by Ironman Bruwer Smit, will enjoy the 95km race from a customised pet carrier to raise money for the French Bulldog Rescue of South Africa and Touws River Dog Charity organisations.
Owned by Tessa Roodt, Rupert and his team set a target of R9 470, all of which will go towards the next spay and neuter day held by the charity in Touws River.
He will be surrounded by a team of five riders, including Roodt, and will have a full support crew and veterinary nurse following to ensure a smooth race.
Ine-lize Terblanche, one of the support crew, explained that Rupert would be checked at seven stations along the route to ensure his safety.
“We’ve modified the cart so there’s enough ventilation and wind on him and we’ve put some visors on so the sun doesn’t shine on him,” she said.
“A lot of thought has gone into making sure he’ll be safe, secure and comfortable. He loves it and is not anxious at all and will probably sleep most of the way.”
The group had to apply for special permission to enter Rupert and, having gained approval from race organisers regarding his safety, the bike and cart were taken to a bicycle shop for testing and final adjustments.
Terblanche said the idea to ride with Rupert stemmed from a need to raise awareness about pet rehabilitation, which Rupert required.
“We as humans, when we have an injury or illness, we typically go to a physio or some kind of practitioner who will treat us but we don’t really think our dogs have the same needs.
“They do need care like this though and Rupert is riding to raise awareness about the fact.”
French bulldogs are prone to hemivertebrae (a common spinal malformation) and Rupert is no exception.
The 13-year-old, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, has been in training for the past month to prepare for his first cycling venture and Terblanche said his team were more than ready for the challenge.
“We’re going to make sure when he gets into the cart on Sunday that he’s already had his exercise so he’s tired and can just rest while the others do the hard work.
“We’re very excited and we really hope the message that goes with this whole effort gets spread.” Follow Rupert’s journey at @Rupertrides.