CHERIE Redecker, a top South African cyclist who calls Namibia home, recently made headlines when she won the mixed category at the Swiss Epic.
Redecker, who is married to former Namibian mountain bike champion Heiko Redecker, teamed up with Lesotho national cyclist Tumelo Makae to win the five-stage event in impressive style. They took the lead from the start, winning all five stages to complete the 320km epic in a total time of 20 hours 27 minutes 11 seconds, which was more than 42 minutes ahead of the second pair of cyclists.
Makae is one of Lesotho's top up-and-coming cyclists who was on a two-year Olympic Solidarity scholarship at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Switzerland, when Covid-19 struck and he got stuck in Switzerland after Lesotho's borders closed due to the lockdown.
Redecker, who has developed into one of Africa's top MTB riders over the past few years, winning the continental MTB title in 2018 and coming second last year, decided to team up with Makae, especially since she was already involved in developing cycling in South Africa and Lesotho.
"Finding a team mate who would have a similar focus to develop cycling in South Africa and Lesotho was important for me. After recently catching up with Tumelo at a race in Switzerland, I realised we could race as a team at the Swiss Epic. He is a great ambassador for Lesotho cycling and I knew he would inspire more children in Lesotho to realise their potential," she said.
For the Swiss Epic, Redecker and Makae initiated a campaign to raise funds for #pumpforpeace, a global initiative by Velosolutions that aims to give children in developing communities access to cycling and action sports through specially-designed 'pump' tracks.
Pump tracks designed by Velosolutions have already been built in various developing countries, including Lesotho, and played a major role in Makae's development as a cyclist.
"Representing #pumpforpeace at an international level was awesome. I became involved with them because the first pump track they built was 40km from where I live and I was excited to be a part of it. Our aim is to raise funds to ensure that pumptracks can be built all over the globe," he said.
Redecker said it was an added bonus to win the event.
"We went into the event with the hope of being on the podium, but it was not our main focus. The opening stage was a surprise for us, but after that we just focussed on riding our own race and increasing our lead," she said.
"To win the mixed category means so much more than just winning the race. What was special for me and kept me motivated through the challenging stages was riding for a purpose like #pumpforpeace. I really hope we made a difference to the #pumpforpeace communities," she added.
According to Redecker they raised US$6 400 (about N$105 600), with a portion of the funds going to the Lesotho non-governmental-organisation, Sepheo, which already has a pumptrack and identifies, reintegrates and educates street children in Maseru.
"Sepheo provides food for 400 families around the community, who's situation is critical. The remainder of the money will go towards one of the new projects in either South Africa, Guatemala, Nepal or Morocco," Redecker said.
Cherie and Heiko now live in Germany, but she said her Namibian bonds remain strong.
Ï love the opportunity when I get to race and train in Namibia, especially at Farm Windhoek. Peter (van der Merwe) has put in so much work, building a trails farm and making it a cycling paradise, and the course he created for the African Championships last year was world class," she said.
Ä small part of me feels that I represent Namibia indirectly. When I race in Namibia it feels like a home race, since I have amazing support from my family and the cycling community over there," she said.