April 21, 2024

Exxaro Women’s Jersey breaks new ground for black female mountain bikers

3 min read

during stage 3 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Elandskloof in Greyton to Elandskloof in Greyton, South Africa on the 23rd March 2022. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

Ten years ago, Rozalia Kubwana became the first previously disadvantaged black South African woman to complete the Absa Cape Epic, the world’s most famous mountain bike stage race. 

A year later in 2014, she made history again by being part of the first black South African women’s team from a less fortunate background to finish the race. Her partnership with Shalotte Mojela proved to be a watershed moment, despite finishing 19 hours off the winners that year.

What they proved was that it was possible for young black South African women to rise above their circumstances to conquer one of the world’s toughest sporting events. 

In the years since, a host of other black women have followed the trail blazed by Kubwana and Mojela in the Absa Cape Epic. The likes of Refilwe Mogorosi, who has completed two Cape Epics, and Remofilwe Moeketsi, a two-time finisher, now return each year determined to stamp their authority on the race. 

The huge strides made by these women have not been lost on anyone, and for the first time this year’s Absa Cape Epic – taking place from 19 to 26 March – will include the Exxaro Women’s Jersey to motivate more black women to take part in mountain biking.

While the jersey, first introduced in 2012, has never been specific to any gender, it has usually been contested by men’s teams. In nine editions, a total of 37 Exxaro Jersey teams have reached the final stage finish line in the top 100, with nine of those in the top 50.

Since its inception, the Exxaro Jersey has given more than 100 young, black and historically disadvantaged South African riders a goal to aim for.

In addition to offering a jersey, which comes with prizes and increased media exposure, the Absa Cape Epic essentially created a platform for a number of South African corporates to support the development of mountain biking. 

Yet, more needed to be done for disadvantaged black South African females under the age of 26, an age group that makes up a large part of the country’s population.

The Absa Cape Epic recognised that competing in an expensive sport and entering the world’s most high-profile stage race are a world away for most, but this needed to change.  

“We have seen an increase in the number of women riders and a greater awareness in women’s cycling in general and so it was a natural progression to introduce an Exxaro Jersey for women – thereby encouraging and motivating more historically disadvantaged South African women to get involved in the event,” says Marc Erasmus, Absa Cape Epic partnership manager.

Curro Holdings, the largest private school group in South Africa, has not hesitated in matching the main prize for the new Exxaro Women’s Jersey winners to that of the Exxaro Jersey men’s main prize – two 12-year scholarships to children of the winners’ choice.

In addition, Stadio has also offered the winners of the Exxaro Women’s Jersey access to a bursary for one of 20 distance higher education qualifications.

For Mogorosi, the initiative is the icing on the cake. “This is something I have always wished we had. Most important to me are the prizes that can change someone’s life with a better education,” she says. “I believe that with this new Exxaro Jersey, other teams or academies will actively recruit more girls and help train them to compete for this prize.

Moeketsi is equally excited. “I recall when I did my first Absa Cape Epic, I was asked what I wanted to see in the future and I said an Exxaro Jersey for females because we are physiologically inferior to the males. This new jersey will definitely be a motivation. When you see someone who looks like you, excelling and standing on a podium, it encourages you and allows you to dream the possible, not just the impossible.”

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