Not so long ago Matthew Goniwe Memorial High School pupil Ncebakazi Mgodeli’s only experience of cycling was when she watched people riding past her home in Khayelitsha’s Site C.
Now, 13 months after she finally got bitten by the cycling bug, she is one of the school’s star cyclists. As the only female rider in the school’s 15-member team, she said she wants to see her performance help change that.
The youngster has just completed her preparations for this weekend’s Discovery Duathlon Cape Town, where she wants to test her skills levels beyond cycling. And, the competition, which takes place at Cape Town Stadium, will provide her with that challenge, and it involves cycling and running.
With quiet confidence, the youngster said she was more than ready for the challenge. She said she was inspired by her performance in this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour, where she finished five minutes before the cut-off time. The Grade 11 pupil said she told herself that, if she could conquer the 109km race, then she should be able to conquer any race.
“That race was really difficult and there were times I just wanted to quit. I was so exhausted that there were times I got off the bike and walked next to it. That was when I thought of just giving up. However, I decided to push myself and there I was at the finish just before the cut-off time,” she said.
Mgodeli, 18, said that performance motivated her to train even harder. Her aim, she said, was to finish next year’s race within five hours.
“My preparations continue with this weekend’s duathlon. I know it is different form all-out cycling as you have to run too but it is a challenge I am looking forward to. I am going to give it my best shot and, irrespective of the outcome, I know it will make me a stronger cyclist,” she said.
She said she’s motivated by the fact that she wants to show other girls that cycling is not a boys-only sport.
“I have tried to tell them about how cool cycling is but they just don’t show any interest. I get frustrated when they say cycling makes one develop calves which, I think is not true. So, I want to continue doing well and once they see me, as one of them, doing well, they will realise they could do it to,” she said.
The school’s cycling co-ordinator Bashir Mahdi described Mgodeli as a star cyclist who gets better with every race she takes part in.
“The fact that she is the only girl in our team says a lot about her confidence levels. She is not intimidated by the boys and has the right attitude. Even when other female riders dropped out of the team, she stuck around and continued. She takes her cycling seriously and you can easily see she’s focussed firmly on her goal,” said Mahdi.
“She also knows that cycling can take her places and expose her to different people.
“In the short time she’s been cycling, for instance, she has raced in places like Paarl and Saldanha Bay and she knows she can go even further as long as she continues learning.
“That’s why I am sure she will be an inspiration to other girls too,” said Mahdi.