30min plus 3laps
around 10th place, winner Jaroslav CoolKavy
Thanks so much to every single person for making this race such a huge success and inspiring our kids. It will go a long way! For us Cape-Epic racers it is now a very short wait until the Prologue in Cape Town. I am always very busy leading up to our songo race but now I can concentrate fully for the big one. Feeling more then ready to tackle my last one as a pro. Jaro is also in incredible shape and we have the very best “insurance” with Erik Kleinhand and Nico Bell as backup team! Lets go!
Please have a read at Chris Whitfield’s write up:
“South Africans aren’t into watching other people ride,” the cycle race organiser said with great conviction. “We’re a nation of doers and would rather participate than spectate,” he added, again with utter assuredness.
Generally speaking, he might be right. But this week on Wednesday evening he was wrong, and in circumstances he would surely have never dreamed about.
That afternoon the Stellenbosch township of Kayamandi hosted the Aramex songo.info Champions Race. In the field were some of the biggest names in world sport: they included reigning Olympic gold medallist Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic, Sweden’s Emil Lindgren, Austrian legend Alban Lakata, Swiss multiple Absa Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser, and that race’s reigning champion, Kristian Hynek, also a Czech.
The women’s field contained household names (well, in cycling households) such as Denmark’s world marathon champion Annika Langvad, Switzerland’s Ariane Kleinhans (the two of them are the defending Absa Cape Epic women’s category winners) and her countrywomen Esther Suss.
The men’s and women’s races also included many of South Africa’s best riders. In fact it might have been the strongest cycling field to grace these shores outside the annual Absa Cape Epic stage race and the occasional world championship which we host.
And why were these world-class athletes prepared to race through the dusty streets of an unglamorous Stellenbosch township on a makeshift course? Most of them are here for the Cape Epic, which starts on Sunday, but it seems unlikely that many would have bothered if not for some compelling reason.
The answer to the question is a long one, but here’s the short version: in 2008 Sauser – who had made Stellenbosch his second home – met Songo Fipaza, a community leader in Khayamandi and a man with a passion to improve the lives of local children.
Sauser had been hoping to simultaneously support a charity and circumvent a rule that does not allow riders from different trade teams to ride together in the Absa Cape Epic: by riding in “neutral” charity clothing two riders from different trade teams can compete together.
When Sauser met Fipaza he appears to have seen something special in the initiative and in 2009 songo.info was born.
The organisation’s vision statement says it aims to raise “healthy, happy and educated children who have the opportunity to go out and pursue the careers and goals they have dreamed of”.
It adds: “In our vision we see a community where there is significantly reduced alcohol and drug abuse, crime and social deviance, and teenage pregnancy. Our children have access to education, skills transfer, and knowledge on personal development and environmental care. Children are protected and have a safe place to grow and develop.”
On the top of a bank overlooking the start and finish line on Wednesday were the songo.info headquarters, painted white with the organisation’s bright logo across its side. In front of the building was a BMX track, through which the array of international professionals rode during their race.
Songo.info has become a place where the children of Khayamandi reach for dreams which they might never have allowed themselves in earlier times.
And there were thousands of people lining the course. Many favoured a place at the top of the bank where they could watch the cyclists going around the field below, up the bank, through the cyclocross track, off into the township and then emerging to drop down another part of the bank towards the start/finish line.
As Kulhavy went past the cry went up: “Cooooool Harvey!”.
As Sauser went past little voices shouted: “Christoph! Christoph!”.
When local boy made good Sipho Madolo went past they roared.
Afterwards Sauser was mobbed. Scores of little children crowded around him, attempting to high five the Swiss athlete, to touch his bike or to just be in close proximity.
Eventually a security guy came around and shooed them away. But there was no extinguishing that brightness in their eyes as they skipped away excitedly.
Christoph Sauser and Songo Fipaza have ignited that brightness through their time, commitment and generosity. Those athletes who took part on Wednesday night were paying respect to exactly that.
More information: www.songo.info