Quartet’s opportunity of a lifetime at the Old Mutual joBerg2c

20 Apr 2017
They are known as the Soweto Quartet, but don’t mistake them for their famous musical namesakes. When these four discuss cadence they are talking about pedal strokes on their bicycles and not the tempo of their favourite song. They know all about tubes but not tubas, are familiar with flats but not flutes.

And while Lazarus “Master” Mosuwe, Calvin Mono, Ace Mashawane and Bheki Mbele are not exactly household names in mountain biking, they are becoming pioneers for the sport in Soweto. From April 21 the quartet will be taking part in the Old Mutual joBerg2c, a mighty challenge that starts outside Johannesburg and ends at the sea at Scottburgh nine days later. That’s 900km in nine days and a lot of mud, sweat and tears along the way. So how did they get into the event?

Their manager, Busi Msimang, explains that it all started when he met the Old Mutual joBerg2c organiser Craig ‘Wappo’ Wapnick. “I met Wappo via a Facebook friend and we connected and committed to making an annual MTB Race in Soweto. He invited me to his place and he taught me how to create routes using Google Earth, and in the days that followed he came out to Soweto to ride and help us plan a route,” recalled Msimang. “He met the guys and he was impressed with their strength and that’s when he suggested getting them into the Old Mutual joBerg2c. He made it all possible.”

Old Mutual gave the quartet their entries and RoadCover and Cube bicycles stepped in with sponsorship, including bikes and flights back to Johannesburg after the finish. Old Mutual Head of Brand Karen Thomas said: “We are delighted to have Lazarus, Calvin, Ace and Bheki in the field for the Old Mutual joBerg2c. This is such a fantastic way to grow mountain biking, and we are certain that many youngsters from Soweto will be inspired by this quartet.”

On being at the event for the first time, “I’m so thrilled for the guys and myself because I’ll be travelling with them as their manager and I will be learning the ins and outs of putting together a race of this magnitude. I’m ever so grateful,” added Msimang. But perhaps not as thrilled as the riders themselves. The four are involved with the SowetorocksMTB initiative and the Bhoni4Kasi MTB Academy and will all be doing the famous race for the first time. At least one will also be flying for the first time too!

“I’m very excited… it’s such an honour to be given such an opportunity to be part of this huge stage race, with everything catered for,” said 36-year-old Mono. “I don’t think that we are deserving because there are many people who I’m sure can perform better than me, but I was chosen. I’m blessed to have been given a new bike, flights and accommodation and this will be my first flight … I’ve never been on a plane before.”

He will be riding with Mosuwe, a school caretaker who is “thankful, honoured and excited” to be part of the Old Mutual joBerg2c. “I was groomed by Bheki Mbele of Bhoni4Kasi (MTB Academy) and now I’ll be with him through this journey. The bicycle I received from Cube is my first brand new top performance bike. I can’t explain the feeling of being on a brand new bike. I’m grateful for everything Old Mutual, RoadCover and Cube have done for us.”

Mbele is the man behind Bhoni4Kasi – it “teaches children and youth how to ride and our focus is mountain biking” – and therefore partly responsible for getting his three fellow cyclists on to mountain bikes in the first place.

"We are the first group from Soweto to be part of this amazing stage race. By being part of this race we’re not only doing it for ourselves, but we’re paving the way for the kids we develop in Soweto and we’re instilling hope and belief in a dream," he said. “I’m sure they will be watching our performance so we need to deliver and make them proud. We are also thankful to Cube MTB and everything that came with this sponsorship. We are looking forward to this journey, we are facing this battle with confidence.”

He will be riding with Mashawane, who said: “I saw the event on SuperSport in 2015 and I immediately subscribed to its newsletter. I was so enthralled by the challenge and the distance covered. When I met Craig Wapnick in Soweto in his joBerg2c branded car I got excited. We were taking them out on a ride around Soweto and we talked about Old Mutual joBerg2c throughout our ride. I’m so honoured that he made this possible for us and look forward to the nine-day journey. In short I will be riding the seven days for our sponsors and the other two days for me. I’m dedicating the entire tour to my son, who is turning two on May 1.”