Development of cycling gets notable contribution from local bank
Cycling has become one of the most popular sports and Namibians from all walks of life have taken to cycling, some as a mode of transport, but most for sport and leisure.
The cycling scene is abuzz this season, particularly with several spots up for grabs for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Investment in sponsorship strongly increased during the last decade, to which Nedbank has significantly contributed. Namibian cycling is being recognised from both continental and global perspectives, and our participation at the Olympic Games in both mountain and road cycling is secured. Namibia’s hosting of International Cycling Union (UCI)-sanctioned races, culminating in the African Continental Mountain Bike (MTB) Championships, is evidence of this growth, as well as Namibia’s growing recognition as quality hosts of major cycling events.
Nedbank’s Chief Financial Officer, JG van Graan, recently stated, “Our investment in cycling in Namibia to date is unmatched. Our primary aim is to ensure a competitive platform for local participants in preparation for international competition.”
Nedbank’s commitment to promoting the sport of cycling started in 1986, when the very first competitive cycling race in Namibia was hosted with just over 80 participants.
Now, the largest cycling event on the Namibian sporting calendar, the Nedbank Cycle Challenge also known as the ‘Greatest Ride Under the Sun’ attracts over a thousand cyclists annually in all of its facets.
Cycling in Namibia has indeed developed, offering a regular array of well-run competitions. A record eleven men’s teams and four women’s teams have entered this year’s Nedbank Windhoek Pedal Power series.
During the past few years, Nedbank added Rehoboth to the cycling calendar for the road race series in an effort to broaden the appeal of cycling across the country. The hosting of the inaugural Nedbank Oshana Cycle Challenge in Oshakati last August has also aided these efforts.
Furthermore, broad-based clubs such as Etameko and Physically Active Youth (PAY) also regularly take part in the local competitions, with many riders from these clubs having since made their debut in national colours. Nedbank is also the main sponsor of the Rock & Rut Mountain Bike Series.
Van Graan noted that over the years the numbers of cyclists and supporters increased and “the appetite for cycling as a sport continues to surge.”
He pointed out that Nedbank has been at the heart of this growth, providing financial support to numerous events, including their flagship cycling event, the Nedbank Desert Dash, which brings in an estimated 25 million Namibian Dollars in revenue to the country, when it take place annually between Windhoek and Swakopmund during the first week of December.
Namibia, despite its small population and limited resources, has produced great riders. Of our greatest triumphs came in 1999, 2001 and 2003, when Mannie ‘Mr. African’ Heymans won the African MTB Championships, as well as bringing home silver at the 1995 All-African Time Trial Championships; in 2000 he achieved Namibian Sportsman of the Year, in 1998 and 2004 he won the Transalp Challenge and SA’s inaugural Cape Epic in 2004. Marc Bassingthwaighte won the men’s African Mountain Bike Championships in 2009 and Michelle Vorster won the women’s race in 2017.
On the management front, in April 2019, Namibia successfully hosted the African Cycling Confederation’s MTB Championships, also sponsored by Nedbank. Also in 2019, the immensely talented Tristan de Lange beat his equally exciting compatriot, Alex Miller, to the gold medal at the African Games.
Dan Craven became a viral sensation at the 2016 Rio Olympics when he accepted a last-minute opportunity to represent Namibia in the time trial, despite not having the requisite gear or preparation for the event. Craven’s positive mindset and can-do attitude made him an instant hero the world over.
He scored a first for Namibia as the first cyclist to compete in a Grand Tour event, when he cycled for the former Europcar UCI World Tour team at the Vuelta a España in 2014.
Since qualifying places for the Olympics are few for Namibian cyclists, competition has been fierce. Joan Smit, secretary-general of Namibia’s National Olympic Committee, confirmed that road cycling has only one male and one female spot on our 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics team. Vera Adrian has taken the women’s spot, while Dan Craven has just recently grabbed the men’s spot. Craven flew in from abroad to compete for the Olympics placement, having finished second in the Nedbank Cycle Challenge and now securing a win at the Nedbank Namibia National Cycling Championship this past Sunday. Other contenders included Alex Miller, Martin Freyer, Drikus Coetzee, Gerhard Mans and Xavier Papo.
After Namibia’s strong performance at the African MTB Championships last year, the possibility of Namibia gaining two Olympic mountain bike spots is strong. Michelle Vorster is expected to take this placement should it become available. Miller and De Lange are close contenders for the spot in the men’s category.
2020 will indeed prove to be an exciting year for cycling development in Namibia. Van Graan expressed his congratulations to the country, wishing the organisers, athletes and all other participants’ successful and exciting competition ahead. He reiterated Nedbanks pledge to the upliftment of sports stating, “Our collective intent is to provide catalytic funding for high-impact programmes to elevate cycling in Namibia, a commitment we aim to continue for years to come.”