Come Crank Africa’s ‘Little Tibet’

Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime … If you are a fit and adventurous mountain biker with a passion for exploring foreign culture, here’s your chance to fulfill a life-long dream. The LESOTHO SKY MTB CHALLENGE comprises six challenging days of staged mountain biking through the Kingdom of Lesotho.

This is an event quite unlike any other on Africa’s MTB Calendar: inclusive, non-commercialised, uncompromising and brimming with adventure, this breath-taking ride along the very roof of Africa promises to breathe new energy into mountain biking here on the sub-continent.

The LESOTHO SKY MTB CHALLENGE successfully premiered in 2011, and since then the event
organisers have strived to continually upgrade the experience. The format sees a maximum of 50
teams – each consisting of two riders – competing, thus keeping the nature of the event personal
with a limit of only 100 riders.

The LESOTHO SKY MTB CHALLENGE will start in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, with a tight and fast 24km Time Trial along urban trails zigzagging through the city suburbs. In support of local cycling, the race has been officially accredited and from 2013 will be listed on the UCI calendar, the first stage race in Lesotho to achieve this status.

Local interest in the event has been ‘sky-high’, with seven of the teams hailing from Lesotho. “The Basotho riders are incredibly fit and skilled on mountain bikes, and these guys have the potential to become some of Africa’s top riders with the right training and equipment”, says Event Organizer Christian Schmidt. Schmidt, a German citizen, was raised in Lesotho, and organizes the LESOTHO SKY MTB CHALLENGE together with Darol Howes, his South African partner.

According to Schmidt, the Basotho are known for their long treks through the highlands on trails and natural single track. This event, however, presents a rare opportunity for Basotho riders to compete against cyclists from other parts of the world. “Lesotho is extremely mountainous, and is also known as the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’, so riders should expect a technically challenging route consisting of at least 50% single-track, and with heaps of climbing”, he  continues.

During the course of six exhilarating but challenging days, the competitors will cover over 400km in distance, with a total altitude gain of approximately 10,000m. This converts to an average daily stage distance of around 70km, with a good 1 600m climbing to boot. Despite the serious ascents, the route has been created in such a way to ensure consistent riding and a high finishing rate.

Team entries are competitively priced at ZAR20,000 (approximately €1600 or US $2250), and this includes accommodation in quality lodges or hotels, as well as three meals per day and all local transport. Other pricing options include a team entry for ZAR14,000 (about €1150 or US $1550) including tented accommodation in a three-man tent (mattresses and pillows are provided), again with all meals and local transport. Airport pick-ups from Maseru International Airport are included where applicable.

Daily water points will be provided, while a professional medical rescue team will be on hand for the duration of the LESOTHO SKY MTB CHALLENGE. Not included in the costs above are daily mechanical services, bike-washing, or massage services from the Physio team. These items need to be booked separately and paid for in cash during the course of the event.

An important component of the LESOTHO SKY MTB CHALLENGE is an initiative known as the Lesotho Sky Community Project, with the aim to help youngsters fulfil their cycling dreams. A number of youths are involved in the event, and are tasked with projects such as the management of water points and assisting with route markings. International media coverage hopes to highlight this in order to further assist the local Lesotho cycling fraternity.