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Raised in a troubled part of Hammersdale, 19 year old cyclist Unathi Nxumalo is seizing the opportunity cycling has given him and plans to show off his rapidly improving skills at the upcoming Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival on 9 and 10 October as well as the MTB race at the popular aQuellé Tour Durban at the end of November.
Nxumalo has just returned from a life-changing trip to Italy as part of the South African MTB team racing at the UCI World Championships, inspired by the experience and determined to make his mark as he advances through the Under 23 age group.
A product of the KZN Cycling Development Programme and the CODAH cycling club, the eager youngster caught the eye of coach and KZN Cycling HP Commission head Johann Wykerd at a talent identification programme held for young boys and girls in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.
“We held a talent identification programme at Absolute Motion and I was struck by what he showed us in the power testing,” said Wykerd.
Nxumalo’s dogged determination, coupled with the troubled home environment that claimed the lives of both his father and brother in gang violence, led to Wykerd taking Nxumalo into his home, and opening more doors to his training and riding opportunities.
“His training has stepped up another gear and Ride2Life sponsored him a ZWIFT membership so that he could train on that virtual platform,” said Wykerd.
“He is getting to ride more trails and his skills are improving all the time,” he added, saying that his friendship with local MTB stars like Henry Liebenberg and Brendan van Eeden was helping shape his skills and confidence.
“Unathi is an amazing young guy, and I am proud of how his social skills have developed alongside his riding skills,” said Wykerd.
The gutsy Nxumalo is keen to try any riding discipline, but Wykerd feels he should focus on the Olympic XCO discipline, and set out to make his mark as an U23 XCO rider in the coming seasons.
With his friendship with Liebenberg and Van Eeden, Nxumalo will have good experience of the Karkloof trails for the 45km elite race at the Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival on Sunday 10 October.
Wykerd will have his charges settle into a rest phase before the Cycle Lab MTB race at the aQuellé Tour Durban based around the Cornubia Mall on Saturday 27 November that will officially kick start the new racing season for the youngster from Hammarsdale.