Pedal Project Creates Racing Sub-Category Within the UCI Women’s Field

cape epic
Tarryn Povey (leading) and Kylie Hanekom, who will be racing as Cape Classic 380, in the 2024 Absa Cape Epic are the most consistent pairing in the group, having established their partnership in 2022. Photo by Oakpics.com.

The Pedal Project – a community-based mental health support programme which utilises mountain biking as a vehicle for empowering children from historically disadvantaged communities – is an official charity of the Absa Cape Epic. In an attempt to raise awareness of the charity, to promote healthy competition throughout the race, and to highlight the achievements of riders who would otherwise go unheralded the programme is launching the PedalForGood leaders’ jersey. The competition will unfold within the greater UCI Women’s race and will be contested by a group of women who balance racing aspirations alongside their career and family commitments.

“Last year, we called the group the ‘working heroines,’” Kylie Hanekom, Head of Content and Marketing for Bike Hub, laughed. “At the 2023 Absa Cape Epic we had an unofficial race between four teams and eight women. We were all in the UCI elite women’s start group, but were never going to be competitive against the true elite teams.”

“The friendly, but highly competitive, race-within-a-race gave us all something to focus on,” Hanekom continued. “Racing for ninth an hour behind the team in eight is a bit disheartening, but keeping an eye on teams who you can beat and who can beat you gave as a reason to really race all eight days. We are all competitive by nature, and if it weren’t for our own challenge, it would have been easy to drift through the closing stages of the race.”

As an official charity of the Absa Cape Epic the Pedal Project is using the race to PedalForGood and raise both funds for, and awareness of, their programme. “We use mountain biking as a tool to promote physical-, but more importantly mental- health,” charity founder Jaco van der Linde said. “Every weekday 120 children from Maccassar, Strand, and soon Jamestown outside of Stellenbosch, come to ride mountain bikes with the Pedal Project. They receive guidance from mentors and are helped to build the tools to overcome the challenges they will face in life.”

“The synergy between Pedal Project and this group of women is tied to mental health,” Van de Linde explained. “Each of them has expressed how important cycling is to their mental health. It’s a concept we call: Trail Therapy. Like so many of us mountain bikers they ride for the joy it brings but also for the intangible benefits.”

“Racing my bike makes me feel alive,” Juanita Mackenzie, one of the founding members of the informal group of women, noted. “I love everything about it. The challenge, the chance to upskill and learn, to overcome. I love the feeling of the wind in my hair, the sound the tyres make as they roll, the exhilaration that I feel when I bomb down a hill and the accomplishment I feel when I am able to be better than the day before – even if just by a small margin. It’s my therapy. It makes my heart happy.”

“I particularly love racing as a team,” Mackenzie added. “There is something beautiful in good team work. To be able to communicate with each other with a grin, a grimace or just a look. Or to not have to communicate at all because you’re in sync. You already know what your partner is going to do before she does it and it makes you smile inside in anticipation. Someone to carry you when you can’t anymore and to inspire you to dig deeper than you ever would on your own. Uplifting each other under every circumstance on and off the bike.”

The community this group has created extends beyond the separate teams. “Every woman in this group inspires me in different ways”, Mackenzie praised. “They all have grit and determination, as well as a never say die attitude. Those are a given for anyone racing their bikes and are always admirable. But it’s the kindness shown when another is flailing that’s truly exceptional. A word of encouragement when you have nothing left in the tank and giving each other credit, where credit is due, even when it’s hard. Something I really love about this group of women is the sportsmanship. We all want to win, no one lines up to lose and we love battling it out.”

At the 2024 Absa Cape Epic they will be battling it out for the PedalForGood jersey. The unofficial leaders’ jersey will reward the best of these teams as they race their way through the eight days, and 613 kilometre route. The battle is sure to be fierce, but fair, and every individual in the group will be celebrated. While simultaneously raising the profile of a charity – the Pedal Project – which enables others to experience the same mental health benefits, they enjoy, through mountain biking. 

Team NameRider NameInstagram Handle
Cape Classic 380Tarryn Povey@tarryn.p
Kylie Hanekom@kyliehanekom
ElementsJuanita Mackenzie@juanitarosemackenzie
Mandi Augustyn@mandi_augustyn
Fortress InvestmentsIla Stow@ilastow
Laura StarkN/A
SHEOVITAJessica Wilkinson@jessleighwilkinson
Rebecca van Huyssteen@becksabby
TBCNicola Freitas@nixfreitas
Robyn Williams@robynwijnbeek

Find out more about the Pedal Project and their charitable efforts here: www.pedalproject.co.za