The annual Lesotho Sky mountain-bike race has been upgraded by the International Cycling Union (UCI), according to race-founder Christian Schmidt.
Lesotho has held the six-day, 360-kilometre mountain-bike stage-race since 2011.
This year’s race is scheduled for Semonkong and Malealea from 20-25 September, and Schmidt is excited at the UCI recognition.
Schmidt told a media conference held in Maseru on Tuesday this week: “Every UCI race starts in the Class Two or Stage Two category but this year, we have been upgraded to Class One. This means the best 10 performers will get about 120 points each, which will help them in world-rankings and qualifying for other UCI competitions.
“This is exciting news for us but at the same time, might not be that good if local riders don’t do well in the race. But if the riders perform well, that means the country will also improve in UCI rankings.”
Schmidt further said preparations for the race are well on track.
“The race is getting bigger every year since it started in 2011 with 22 riders only. However, it has never been easy; the journey has been filled with lots of challenges,” he reflected.
“This year due to circumstances beyond our control, we have decided to move the prologue to Semonkong.
“The second day will see riders riding from Ramabanta to Malealea, and on the third day, they are going to cycle in Malealea as a loop and then head back to Roma on the fourth day. Day five will see the riders race from Roma to Ramabanta, with the last day being a loop in Ramabanta.”
Schmidt also announced riders from Belgium, United Kingdom, German, Switzerland, Brazil, South Africa and Lesotho would feature in this year’s race.
Standard Lesotho Bank would be this year’s main sponsor, alongside Alliance Insurance Company, Schmidt added. And as part of giving back to the nation, Schmidt said the race’s organisers would be working with Sentebale as their charity partner.
“I would like to announce Standard Lesotho Bank as our main sponsors this year, alongside Alliance Insurance, who have been with us since 2011 when we started.
“But this is not only about us; we understand while also promoting the country globally through this race, we have to give back to the nation, hence we will be working with Sentebale Children’s Home.”
Speaking at Tuesday’s media briefing, Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation chief executive officer, Mpaiphele Maqutu, said the race has been very vital to the country’s tourism.
“It is good to have such events in Lesotho as they can attract people from far-away countries. This race is good for promoting the country as a tourist destination and also helps improve the nation’s economy. The riders bring their families to the race and the money they pay for accommodation and other essentials helps boost the economy,” he said.
Maqutu also urged the organisers to hold the race in different parts of the country to benefit all Basotho and not one area.
“Communities benefit a lot during the race so it would be ideal to hold the race in different parts of the country,” said Maqutu.