Mountain biker’s success a milestone

2016-06-08 06:00
John Ntuli has graduated from being captain of the RMB Change a Life Academy MTB team to a pro cyclist, sponsored by Merchants.                                          PHOTO: anthony grote/gameplan media

John Ntuli has graduated from being captain of the RMB Change a Life Academy MTB team to a pro cyclist, sponsored by Merchants. PHOTO: anthony grote/gameplan media

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WHEN it comes to development programmes, the Computershare Change a Life Academy has made a massive impact on the world of paddling.

Now the RMB Change a Life Academy, which focuses on mountain bike (MTB) racing, has produced its first pro MTB athlete, John Ntuli.

Ntuli was captain of the outfit, which has been making its mark in long-distance racing, but recently departed the team after being sponsored by Merchants - a dimension data company. His success has been an important milestone for the RMB Change a Life Academy.

Thulani Mbanjwa led the way for the paddlers when he teamed up with ­academy founder Martin Dreyer to win the K2 Dusi Canoe Marathon title in 2008, showing other development paddlers that a career in the sport was possible through application and hard work. Now Ntuli, who is in his thirties, has pointed the way forward for the mountain bikers from the Valley of 1000 Hills.

“Being part of the RMB Change a Life Academy was a great opportunity for me, and training with them, learning to understand other people and trying to help build them up as cyclists, was a very good experience for me,” Ntuli said.

Ntuli, meanwhile, is grateful for the role Dreyer has played in his development.

“He has played a very important role in my career since I joined the Change a Life Academy, before it was even sponsored by RMB,” he said.

“Before I met Martin, I was struggling to get sponsors. I was getting good results, but I didn’t have a proper sponsor. He changed my life and opened more doors for me and he provided me with more experience in long races, teaching me different skills. Martin is my role model.”

Dreyer, as Ntuli’s mentor, could hardly be happier with his charge.

“He just pleases me in terms of his mannerisms. It’s extremely rewarding. An attitude like his is fantastic.

“He is the perfect role model for the RMB Change a Life Zulus, and now a great ambassador because he has moved to a higher level and is able to provide for his family.”

Ntuli first approached Merchants about a sponsorship in September 2015 and it was confirmed in March. He made his case hard to ignore in December when he won the Munga - a 1 000km race from Bloemfontein to the Cape Winelands - in a time of 69:10 minutes.

His big goal this year is the successful defence of the Munga title he won in impressive fashion.

“I need to defend my title. I am looking forward to training properly for it and being ready for it,” Ntuli said.

Motivation, Dreyer weighed in, is not in short supply for his former team captain.

“Training for Munga, he will get up at sunrise, then do a loop past my house [in the north of Pietermaritzburg­]. He will have lunch and have three meals in one,” he laughed, “and I will get an SMS just before sunset that he has arrived home and he will thank me for lunch.”

Recently Ntuli was struck down by illness in the solo category of the Old Mutual joBerg2c two days from the end, which took him out of contention for the title.

In 2015, however, he underlined his excellence with a third-place finish.

And just to show that he is not a one-trick pony, Ntuli’s top results last year included a victory in the sub-vets’ category of the cross-country at the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival.

- Sports Reporter.

To show that he is not a one-trick pony, Ntuli’s top results last year included a victory in the sub-vets’ category of the cross-country at the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival

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