Cycling for awareness

Bicycle tires are pictured at Velo Cuba, a bicycle workshop and rental in Havana

Over the weekend, 30 people cycled from the Westin Hotel in the CBD through the farmlands, Wellington, Bainskloof, Caledon through to Chapman’s Peak and back to Cape Town over three days to raise funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, an organisation which uses sport for social change.

The participants will be cycling for 10 hours a day, over three days, covering a distance of 600km.

The initiative, by Marriott Hotels, was started in 2007 by an employee who is an avid cycler.

Guio de Wilde, chief operating officer of Marriott International in the Middle East, said he had been to many cycling fund-raising events and one year, someone approached him and said they needed a primary school built.

“I organised a cycling event and raised enough money to build the school,” he said.

He later suggested that they cycle for three days for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“We tested it to see if it would work and we wanted to also set an example for other fund-raisers and we raised 300 000 dollars.

“Since then, we have been cycling annually and raised over nine million dollars for different organisations around the world.

“We started with 12 people to raise funds for UNICEF, but quickly learnt that it’s not about cycling, it’s about the campaign and raising awareness for the cause. Each charity we support is for the health and education of children.

“Last year we cycled in Jordan, and this year we decided to come to Cape Town.”

The aim is to raise a million dollars which will be divided between the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and other charities in the Middle East.

Quinton Smith, the deputy director for cycle tourism, a new portfolio at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, said his portfolio was introduced to ensure growth in the cycling culture.

“We already host so many big events such as the (CapeTown) Cycle Tour, and the ABSA Cape Epic, and these events bring revenue to the economy.

“We want to make Cape Town the cycle capital of South Africa.”

He said the Department of Economic Development and Tourism endorsed the Road to Awareness Campaign because cyclists come from all over to contribute to the cycling culture and to see the beauty of the Western Cape.

One of the participants, Lena Willoughby, who is from Dubai, said her husband inspired her to cycle six years ago. “Soon after, I did the Road to Awareness Challenge. We cycled from Germany to Austria.

“I love cycling in a group because you get to meet different people and you get to do something you don’t do every day – ride for a good cause.”

She said the previous ride they did had been very challenging as they climbed a steep road. “I was last on the hill but everyone was cheering for me. I made it, and that’s what’s important.”

Ms Willoughby said she had been training all year as she had done the Cape Town Cycle Tour earlier this year.

“The weather is very unpredictable but we are in it for a good cause.”

CBD resident Zee Ismail also joined this year’s challenge. Mr Ismail has been cycling his entire life, as he used it as a means to get to and from school.

“I’ve done cycling tours before including the Absa Cape Epic and I’ve previously cycled for the Road to Awareness campaign.”

He said he loved that the participants from abroad got to see what the Western Cape had to offer, and that they would contribute to the local economy.

He said he had been training for months in the difficult and unpredictable Cape Town winter.

“I went to Italy to train for 10 days, and I train long distance over the weekends for about nine hours to 20 hours at a time.”

He said it was really inspiring knowing that you were doing something for a good cause. Of the last Road to Awareness challenge, he said: “It was really incredible. You get to meet great people and it’s good to do things with people who share a common interest, so we are looking forward to seeing how much we raise.”

Morne du Plessis, the chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, said the foundation felt privileged to have been selected as the beneficiary.

“This event is a sporting endeavour and it fits with our theme, sport for good.”

He said the money would be used for 26 projects in South Africa to help less fortunate people enjoy a better life through sport.