The quaint town of Ladismith came alive on Saturday as close to a thousand cyclists lined up for the annual Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge. Large crowds of local supporters were not only found at the festive race venue, but all along the 85km route that traversed the epic Seweweekspoort surroundings.
With the 16th edition, it was clear to see that the event has become an integral part of the Ladismith community. Besides providing an economic opportunity for the town, the event has also played a major role in promoting sport in the area. Dryland Event Management sponsored 150 entries to school children this year with the support of Rhodes Food Group who gave them all cycling kit.
“This event brings the entire community together, and local people who wouldn’t usually be able to afford it get to ride. It’s also created more of an interest in cycling than I’ve ever seen before – so many people in town suddenly own bicycles now. I even see it in my own factory, so many of my workers take part in this event every year,” said CEO of Ladismith Cheese Renaldo Gronewald.
Creating a particular sense of pride this weekend was a race that allowed youngsters to compete for prize money that would be given to their school. The local crowd erupted at prize giving when it was announced that Outeniqua High School and Blanco Primary School would be taking home the highly sought-after floating trophy.
For many riders, the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge came as an opportunity to put their cycling skills to the test. There were various routes for different fitness levels on offer, with the 85km route presenting the greatest challenge. Adding an element of excitement was the addition of new trails, which proved to be well-received by familiar participants.
Yolande de Villiers took the victory in the women’s category, while Nicol Carsten’s won the men’s category.
As no stranger to the event, de Villiers has stormed to title multiple times in her career and finished it seven times. With a dusty face at the finish, she enthused: “I’ve done many races all over South Africa, and there’s something extra special about this one. Everyone makes you feel so welcome here – from the Dryland team to the local children running out of their homes to give you hi-fives along the route.”
As the day drew to a close, a proud Dryland Event Management director Henco Rademeyer gave a parting shot: “This is one of those ‘feel good’ events and the benefits go way beyond just a commercial one. There are so many people outside of Dryland that are positively impacted by this, and that’s what keeps us coming back.”