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Why Letshego Zulu wants to become a Cape Epic Amabubesi

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For riders who complain they don’t have time to train. Letshego shows the value of time management. (Photo: Letshego Zulu)
For riders who complain they don’t have time to train. Letshego shows the value of time management. (Photo: Letshego Zulu)

Letshego Zulu was one of the first African women to finish the Cape Epic, back in 2013. Nine years later she is back and hoping to join the Amabubesi club – a mark of distinction for riders who have completed three Epics. 

Zulu’s inability to refuse an invite has her lining up for her third attempt at the world's toughest mountain bike race. And preparing for a Cape Epic, requires a great deal of commitment.

"It is tough to prepare and juggle work and training. Training in Joburg is not ideal, with no real mountains, so one needs to get down to places like Kwa-Zulu Natal or the Western Cape to ensure that you are used to the climbing that the Epic is known for."

Zulu is a single mom, after losing her husband, the racing and rally driver Gugu Zulu, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in 2016, during one of their adventure couple expeditions.

"It wasn't easy before and now it is even trickier as a single mom. Mid-week sessions are almost impossible as I have to do the school run, so I very often find myself on the indoor trainer late at night."

For her attempt at a third Cape Epic finish, Zulu will be teaming up with Phathokuhle Zondi, who completed the Munga on an e-bike a few months ago.

"This will be my first time riding with another lady. In the past, I have always ridden with men, and they were able to support me when things got tough, with a push or a pull. I have trained harder, knowing that would no longer be the case."

Being self-sufficient is vital at the Cape Epic. "We also had to jack up our technical and mechanic skills, so that we will be able to deal with any mechanicals if they do happen," says Zulu.

Zulu believes that partnering with another woman of colour is a great way to showcase that the Cape Epic is not out of reach for African women.  

"As young black girls, we were told that bikes are only for boys, but we are breaking barriers here. Since my first Cape Epic in 2013, I have been keeping an eye on the race and noticed that we are still struggling to get women of colour into the sport. I suppose that is why I keep coming back, to show others that it is possible."

Zulu adds that all women need to overcome the fear of mountain biking, are comprehensive skills training sessions.

"A few years ago, I did a proper skills clinic, which changed the game for me. I really believe that bespoke skills clinics for women can go a long way in alleviating the stigma around the dangers of mountain biking. The biggest fear for most women is falling and hurting themselves. It is also great to see Epic trippers will be hosting groups exclusively for women on certain stages of this year's event."

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