Diepsloot MTB Academy riders William Mokgopo and Philimon Sebona crossed the finish line in high spirits yet again, and after an impressive week of riding, claimed the Exxaro special jersey and finished the event in 42nd place overall.
As Mokgopo and Sebona finished, a delighted crowd clapped and cheered and the pair exchanged high fives and hugs with their team managers.
They extended their lead almost every day in the chase for the Exxaro special jersey, ending with a time gap of +1:42.49,8. Compared to preceding stages of the Absa Cape Epic, the final day was relatively flat, something that didn’t quite suit the team. But on the Grand Finale they were only racing themselves.
“It was difficult stuff today,” said Mokgopo. “I’m not a flat terrain type of person, I prefer it up and down and that’s the type of rider I am. I just try relax more when it comes to flats and really push it in the undulations. But today we didn’t need to do any work, we just enjoyed ourselves.”
Of the Absa Cape Epic experience, an overwhelmed Mokgopo said it was an incredible week. “It was a hard week but amazing too. My legs felt like bricks today. It was mind over matter for this last stage. In general, everything is still catching up to me.”
As part of their prize, the pair will get to fly to Belgium and spend eight days at the elite Bakala Academy doing testing and training. They will also get to interact and spend time with the Etixx Quick-Step professional cycling team, which is based in Belgium and uses the academy to improve its performance.
“I am excited for Belgium. I’ve heard wonderful things about it, and we are going to do some great things over there.”
Sebona explained the final stage as a different kind of challenge.
“We left the start and we saw our team number two coming up close behind us, so we wanted to help them and walk with them to the line. So today’s strategy was to get safely to the finish line with no broken bikes, no skin torn. We wanted to make sure to bring our second team to the line in a very good position.”
Cindy Ross is the general manager for Diepsloot MTB Academy.
An elated Ross admitted they hadn’t considered the idea of winning the jersey. “We are extremely proud. We haven’t stopped receiving messages of congratulations. We came into the Absa Cape Epic hoping to get fifth position in the category, and now we have the Exarro special jersey!”
Explaining the team’s success, Ross said there are lessons that everyone can learn.
“I think this is a prime example that you can never underestimate yourself. Five years ago when we met William, he had told us that he wanted to represent South Africa one day. And he just continued to work hard and we tried to help open doors for him. Nobody believed in our Academy, but the amazing thing is, these boys did it all on their own – without a coach or many resources.”
She concluded, “The Absa Cape Epic has exceeded our dreams and expectations. Outside of this our riders are great. William is still studying, mentoring the kids at home. Both riders want to start coaching the kids full time at the academy, and William will continue to do so while completing his studies with the prize money won.”
As winners of the Exxaro special jersey, Sebona and Mokgopo will enjoy R50 000 from Exxaro to spend on education or other initiatives designed to improve their personal circumstances.
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic has come to a close. One hundred Early Bird entries for the 2018 edition will be made available at 15:00 (GMT+2) on Monday, 27 March 2017.