With the rhino populations throughout the country continuing to come under threat, the 2017 edition of the uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge on Saturday 9 December from Hillcrest to Hluhluwe will see over 70 riders raising money for Project Rhino KZN.
2016 saw participants raising over R250 000 for the project that supports their various rhino protection programmes such as maintaining the aerial support of the Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing (ZAP-Wing) to 26 game reserves in northern KZN.
The funds also help in providing urgently needed anti-poaching training and other resources to field rangers and game reserves, and community-based education and awareness initiatives targeting primarily youth.
Race organiser Mark Carrol is hoping that they can go well past the number they raised 12 months ago.
“We have double the amount of riders this year than we had last year which is a great sign,” he mentioned.
“The event has grown consistently over the last three years and this year we hope to take the event further with a big branding initiative that we are running.
“All participants will get riding shirts, caps and a cooler bag and we have made sure that these are quality products that the riders will use post-event.
“Having these people as our ‘ambassadors’ outside of the uBhejane will hopefully spread the message of what we are trying to achieve.”
The uBhejane Xtreme takes riders 340km from the Cadence Cycling Performance Centre in Hillcrest to Hilltop Camp in Hluhluwe, a difficult event for riders and administrators.
“This year we have added two new distances to the event but half of the riders taking part have signed up for the full 340km event!” said Carrol.
Along with the full 340km, there is a 240km ride as well as a new 100km and 35km ride and Carrol is of the impression that making the event accessible to all riders will help increase awareness.
“We thought that having the shorter distances for riders that wouldn’t be too keen on the full or 240km rides would help in giving the whole day more exposure.
“The 100km ride is definitely not going to be easy, but we thought that we would introduce it as a way for your riders that might not have put in that much training to get involved,” he added.
This year’s ride will see the return of two of the 2016 influential people with Sibusiso Vilane and Phil Liggett returning to take part in the ride. These two along with former Cell C Sharks and Springbok flyer Jeremy Thompson will help promote the event.
“Having guys of the stature of Phil and Sibusiso taking part really does give the event the much-needed exposure.
“Also with Jeremy, who is a great rider, people can share their stories and engage with them on a social level.
“We are hoping to get more personalities involved in the event in the future and we thank these guys for being a part of our fund raising initiative,” Carrol commented.
Covering an event that spans nearly 400km of KwaZulu-Natal, Carrol is planning logistically to increase numbers in the years to come.
“I always thought that it would remain a small event due to the logistical issues that come with an event that covers such a vast area.
“We need so many support vehicles as well as people to drive and feed from those vehicles.
“I am looking at plans for the future where we might be able to set up water tables in order to ease up the load on the support vehicles and make the event easier to manage,” he explained.
The 2017 uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge takes place from Hillcrest to Hluhluwe Game Reserve on Saturday 09 December.