A FIVE-MEMBER local cycling team is in Mauritius to take part in the African Continental Mountain Bike Championships which begin tomorrow until Sunday.
The quintet left the country on Tuesday for the resort town of Bel Ombre where Olympian Phetetso Monese and Teboho Khantši will compete in the elite male category while the duo of youngsters Malefetsane Lesofe and Tumelo Makae will take part in the under 23 category.
Likeleli Masitise will compete in elite female category.
Team manager Mark West addressed the media on the eve of their departure and expressed confidence the team would perform well as they had thoroughly prepared for the competition.
“We have been busy preparing the team and they have been competing in several regional competitions since last year,” West said, adding, “They were in Cape Town in February and Windhoek, Namibia in March, Pretoria last month and Bloemfontein last week”.
He said the competition was important as could help the team to maintain their top 30 Union of Cycling International (UCI) ranking and make it easier for them to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“We are currently ranked 29 worldwide and second in Africa behind South Africa. It is important to participate in such competitions to gain points and improve our rankings because we are preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“The top 23 nations will gain automatic promotion to Tokyo so we need to continue working hard.”
He said the team had been selected on the basis of excellent performances in different competitions as well as their rankings in Africa.
“They are the best we have based on their performances in previous competitions and their international rankings. Monese is the highest ranked in the country as he ranks third in Africa, Khantsi is ranked 20.
“Makae and Lesofe rank third and fifth respectively in the under 23 category while Masitise is ranked number four in Africa,” he said.
The Welshman paid tribute to Alliance Insurance company for their M70 000 sponsorship, adding they had learnt the hard way not just to depend on the national sporting association as they had failed to travel for the same event in Rwanda two years ago due to lack of funds.
“It was such a painful experience but also a lesson to us that we should not only depend on the association and I am glad to announce that for this trip Alliance Insurance company has injected M70 000 while Lesotho National Olympics Committee (LNOC) have put in M58 000 to cover air tickets and insurance,” West said.
The race will be in two forms, one being a cross country event around a short course of 4.8 kilometres with steep climbs and difficult rocky technical sections.
The elite men will race seven laps while the under 23s and elite women will do six laps.