MTN Qhubeka young star teams up with Mister African for ABSA Cape Epic assault

Mannie Heymans (Garmin-adidas) and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) will team up to contest next month’s Absa Cape Epic.

This might develop into one of the most exciting combinations during the world famous stage race. One thing is for certain they will be contesting the category ‘Best African Team of the Tour’.

The combination of Heymans and Niyonshuti is a classic case of the old guard joining forces with one of tomorrow’s stars.

When studying the archives, it is not unusual to see his name cropping up in various newspaper headlines: “Heymans still too good for his rivals (2003); Mannie does not know the meaning of quitting (2002); No mountain to steep for Heymans (2002); etc.

Niyonshuti is MTN-Qhubeka’s big success story. Last year he was considered to be just another talent, but as the season progressed he gained confidence and grew in stature.

During the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek Niyonshuti proved that he was becoming a true contender. He won the King of the Mountain prime on the Swartberg Pass by outriding participants such as Christoph Sauser, two-time world champion and Olympic medalist, as well as Max Knox and Kevin Evans.

With his never-say-die attitude, Niyonshuti contested the sprint to the line in three of the six stages. It was, therefore, appropriate that Sauser took his hand as they raced shoulder to shoulder across the line during the last stage. This was seen as a symbolic gesture of a past world champion taking the hand of a possible future world champion.

Another highlight for Niyonshuti was winning two of the four races in the Nissan series (Tyger Valley and Centurion) and he managed to achieve a top-ten finish in basically each of the MTN ultra-marathons.  His best result was to finish second in the MTN 50 Miler. He was also fourth in last year’s Barberton ultra-marathon.

He became the first Rwandan mountain biker to qualify for the Olympic Games after the African Cross Country Championships.

The MTN Clarens Ultra Marathon also delivered some excitement when Niyonshuti won and Heymans finished second. This bodes very well for the partnership.

Heymans’ cycling career is indeed impressive and he joined Team Garmin adidas in 2008.

He started cycling in 1990 and competed in road races in Namibia and South Africa.

He won the Namibian road title 11 times and the Namibian mountain-bike title five times. He proved his versatility by winning the individual time trial at the All African Time Trial Championship in 1995.

As the African Champion in cycling, he qualified to represent Namibia at the Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008 where he finished 26th, 29th and 44th, respectively. It is interesting to note that Heymans was Namibia’s flag-bearer at the official opening ceremony of the Beijing Games.

He also competed for his country at the 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Other major achievements include his selection as the Namibian Sportsman of the Year 2000, and his victory at the inaugural Trans Alp Challenge in 1998, as well as at the subsequent Challenge in 2004.

Heymans also partnered Karl Platt (Germany) to win the inaugural Cape Epic in 2004.

What many young cyclists do not know is that Heymans is one of the true “pioneers” of Southern African mountain biking. Through his exploits he contributed to the development of mountain biking into one of the most popular sports at present.