Standard Bank’s cycling event set to raise R12m over 12 years for children’s charities

Standard Bank’s annual Cycle4Kids event, in which bank employees and a few of the banks clients, cycle from Johannesburg to Durban to raise funds for charity, will this year pass a total of R12 million in funds raised.

The 2010 event, taking place from 13 to 17 October, is expected to raise in excess of R1, 3 million. The number of cyclists is capped at 50. “So, with the R20 000 each rider has to raise to qualify for Cycle 4 Kids, the absolute minimum we raise with each event is R1 million,” says Standard Bank’s Cycle4Kids organiser, Andrew Somerville.

“Last year, however, our colleagues inside the bank joined forces with us in an internal activation in which volunteers at various Standard Bank venues collected donations by spinning. They raised R40 000 in just three hours, a massive effort which we really appreciated. As per the bank’s Employee Community Involvement programme, the bank matched the donations. “This year, the activation programme is likely to raise even more money.”

The funds raised jointly by the cyclists and the activation programme will be donated to three charities helping children living with HIV/Aids. The cycle event itself is remarkable in that, in spite of the fact that all the riders are amateurs and include men and women of all races aged between 25 and 57, there have been no accidents and no rider has pulled out yet.

“This is not your usual cyclist profile, although, obviously, each rider has to meet minimum criteria of fitness for us to allow him or her to ride,” Somerville says. “We ascribe our exceptional safety record to our race Marshall (commander, really!), Mark Thjis, who has ridden in every event since the beginning of Cycle for Kids. Safety is paramount, and as a result, Mark is incredibly strict.

He ensures that we ride two abreast at all times, and that we ride as close together as possible. He rides backwards and forwards along the group of fast riders checking that everyone has enough to drink, and that all riders are adhering to the ‘rules of the road’. It is not an easy job.
Cycle4Kidsis a gruelling ride, covering 700 km in five days. The 2010 route passes through rugged terrain in the Clarens areas of the eastern Free State and crossing the Drakensberg mountains at Bergville.

This year, the cyclists will take part in a ‘once off’ race, which will go back from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on the Saturday. The following day, all cyclists will take part in the traditional Pick ‘n Pay Amashovashova National Classic from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. “Most amateur cyclists could certainly not do the first 600kms and then the Amashovashova all as one event, so the pool of riders from which we can draw Cycle4Kidsriders is pretty small,” Somerville says.

“That said it’s not the same 50 riders every year. This year we have 21 new participants who’ve never done the ride before, and 20 who have participated over the eleven years but never in consecutive years. “Given that, we only started with a group of six riders eleven years ago, and had only 20 the following year, we’ve probably have had 200 people take part in total.”

Raising R20 000 to qualify can be an inhibiting factor for people in junior positions in the bank but, over the years, many non-executive employees have been determined enough to make the cut, with a teller joining Cycle4Kidsfor the first time in 2009.

Standard Bank covers the costs of the ride, including two dedicated paramedics and four masseuses. Each day starts at 06:30 and finishes, with a 45-minute lunch break and two 15-minute refreshment breaks, at around 16:00.

With typical banking humour, the riders are divided into a fast group of “racing snakes”, called the Rands, and a slower group, known as the Dollars.

As Somerville says: “Doing what you love to raise funds for charity is a great way to be socially relevant,”