South African adventurer Sibusiso Vilane pushed himself to the limit at the uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge, which took place in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend. And it was all for a good cause.
Taking part in the 250km race, one of five options, Vilane said he experienced a tougher challenge than he had originally anticipated.
“I felt that when I got through the first 40km I had [already] maxed out,” Vilane said. “It made me realise that they don’t call it the uBhejane Xtreme for nothing and it threw absolutely everything it could at us.
“The conditions made it so much tougher as there was a big storm on Friday night and there was a lot of mud on the roads.”
The event is a non-race, meaning no winners and times are measured, but it serves annually to raise awareness – and funds – for the anti-rhino-poaching campaign.
“When it got tough I just reminded myself of why I was doing this and the importance of the cause we are representing,” Vilane said.
“I just knew that the cause was way bigger than me and that was all the motivation I needed to keep going.”
Vilane said the uBhejane Xtreme created valuable awareness about the struggle to combat rhino-poaching.
“It is our duty to make sure we do all we can to win the fight against the rhino poachers and I genuinely believe we are starting to turn the tide in this battle.
“In my lifetime I hope to do all I can do to make a difference in the current fight we have on our hands.”
The maximum distance riders were able to tackle was 340km. Former Sharks and Springbok rugby player Joe Pietersen opted to ride in the 100km version.
“We eventually did 109km into Hilltop from Canelands in Empangeni and the last nine kilometres felt like another 109km,” Pietersen joked.
“We had some great conditions early on with overcast weather and a bit of a tailwind, but that quickly turned into a massive storm with thunder and lightning.
“It’s great to see how different organisations have come together for the same cause and it highlights a big issue that we face in South Africa,” he said regarding the importance of rhino conservation.
In memory of legendary cycling commentator Paul Sherwen, who died from heart failure recently, participants wore black armbands and were greeted by the “voice of cycling” Phil Liggett at the entrance to Hluhluwe.
The riders and Liggett, who was his long-time colleague, then went on a memorial ride for 35km to the top of Hilltop Camp.
Read the social media tributes that had poured in, including from Liggett, for Sherwen’s passing.