Top-ranked BMX riders, Luthando James and Wanga Moshani, from Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy, in Khayelitsha, are excited to hit the track, following the easing of the national lockdown regulations on cycling and some other sports, earlier this month.
Cyclists were given the go-ahead by Cycling SA to exercise between the hours of 6am and 6pm, in small groups, while wearing a mask.
However, regulations put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 do not allow for organised events and large group gatherings.
James, 16, said he is ranked fourth in the country in the under-16 expert group and is excited to hit the track at Velokhaya. He joined the non-profit organisation in 2016. He said the latest news got him and his fellow teammates excited. Over the last two months, they have been training individually using online technology.
Inspired by USA Olympic Athlete and professional BMX Racer, Connor Fields, James said in his first official race, held at the Lahee BMX Park in Durban, he won a bronze medal in the under-13 boys’ section.
“During the lockdown, I have been training at home. But now I go and do some stuff there on the track.
“BMX racing inspired me because my uncle was part of a road programme and he asked if I could ride a bicycle and I said no. He took me to Velokhaya and signed me up to the BMX programme,” he said.
James said the team consists of well rounded and respectful individuals, including his teammate, Moshani, who has helped him on and off the track.
The 21-year-old Moshani said he is ranked fifth in the country and first in the province in the Elite group.
He said his younger counterpart, James, inspires him a great deal as he is one of the most promising young riders in the country.
Moshani said since he joined the team in 2008, they have groomed him to become an all-round champ.
“There was a heritage tournament that we ended up winning… At first, my parents didn’t like the idea of me being a BMX rider, this might have been because the sport is not popular and it’s a high risk, and most of the time I’d come home with many injuries, so they hated the idea and most of the time they wanted me to quit racing,” he said.
Moshani believes, despite the challenges, cycling has the potential to become a dominant sport in Khayelitsha.
He said there is a lack of marketing for cycling in SA, especially BMX. In other countries, he said, there are more riders as well as better facilities and equipment.
“My biggest achievement was to race at the 2010 UCI BMX World Championships in Pietermaritzburg and make the semi-finals.
“My current goal is to be one of the best on the continent. I am ranked fifth in the country and first provincially,” he said.
“Cycling is an expensive and traveling sport so sometimes I don’t attend races because of finance,” he said.
“I would like to see myself racing professionally in Europe and making a living out of the sport. My idol in the sport is Sifiso Nhlapho. Although he no longer races, he still inspires me,” he said.
Moshani said Velokhaya is one of the biggest cycling academies in Africa. “Velokhaya is not all about cycling. There’s a lot happening in Velokhaya. There are mentors and tutoring happening in the yard and nutrition programme for kids before they ride their bikes and before they do their school work,” he said.
“In this lockdown, I’ve been working hard to achieve my goal of finishing in the top three at the SA champs. Because it’s a lockdown, I do home workouts just to keep fit but we are soon going to be allowed to ride on the track,” said Moshani.