After a successful debut at the uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge last year, former Cell C Sharks rugby player and conservationist Joe Pietersen will return in 2019 with his brother Willem to take on the Baby Horn – 110km of riding on Saturday, 7 December.
Pietersen is in the twilight of his rugby career and represents the San Diego Legion in America’s Major League Rugby competition, but is currently in his pre-season phase so the opportunity to take part in the uBhejaneX came up and he didn’t hesitate.
“I had such a fantastic time last year even though I am not a cyclist at all!” Pietersen said. “The cause is incredible and this year I am going to be doing it with my brother so we are both looking forward to the challenge.
“The weather was very kind to us last year but this year I know what to expect and growing up in Zululand I know how hot it can get this time of the year!
“With that said I have been doing a bit of training. I have to be back in the States in the new year so I have been doing some running and riding so I am in fairly good shape, I think!”
Conservation has been close to the 35 year-old’s heart for a number of years and he believes that the uBhejaneX is an event that fits hand-in-glove with what he and his brother are trying to achieve with their business in Hoedspruit.
“We run a non-profit organisation where we promote safari tourism and use that money raised to assist in anti-poaching efforts and projects very similar to those of the uBhejaneX.
“We like to support the people on the ground making the difference and so this event excites me in the part that they play in the fight against rhino poaching.”
With 80km completed, the riders will take on the 30km stretch from the famous bronze rhino statue to Hilltop Rest Camp. This section of the ride put the entire event into perspective for Pietersen when he rode it in 2018.
“I found that final stretch in the park the toughest but we saw rhino and elephant which made the entire event hit home and you realised why you were doing it.
“Seeing those animals made everything worthwhile and I am ready and excited for the event this year,” an enthusiastic Pietersen mentioned.
The uBhejaneX includes five different events that fall under it. They all fall along the same route with a three day ride, a 330km ride, 250km ride, 110km ride and then a 30km ride inside the Hluhluwe Mfolozi Park.