Some 24 riders representing six universities are aiming to claim the title as Varsity MTB champion during the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage event this week.
Their cycling achievements are wide and varied, but here are some other numbers of interest…
1 – Tuks’ Michelle Benson is the only rider to have taken part in both previous editions of Varsity MTB, in 2016 and 2017. The 23-year-old, an accomplished road rider who finished 10th at this year’s national championships, is doing her BAHons Applied Language Studies at University of Pretoria. NWU’s Nicolene Marais is the only other ‘veteran’, having competed at the 2017 event.
2 – There are two foreign-born riders racing Varsity MTB, and that is TUT’s Nompumelelo Tshabalala (Mankayane, Swaziland) and Madibaz’s Stacey Hyslop (Harare, Zimbabwe). Hyslop actually started her tertiary education in 2016 on a cycling scholarship to Lees-McRae College in the USA before moving to Nelson Mandela University in 2018 – she is in the second year of her BHSc Biokinetics degree. Tshabalala, meanwhile, is completing her third year of a National Diploma in Management.
4 – Four riders are in the post graduate phase of their studies. Apart from the above-mentioned Michelle Benson (Tuks), the UCT men’s pair of Richard Simpson (PGDip in Accounting) and Michael Lambrecht (Biological Sciences) are also doing their honours. Meanwhile, NWU’s Christo Botes is doing his Masters in Mechanical Engineering.
5 – The number Senamile Zulu wore while helping TUT claim their sixth straight Varsity Women’s Football title in September. The 22-year-old (she turns 23 on Friday, 1 November), who plays as a midfielder, is doing her first year of a Diploma in Ecotourism Management.
6 – Half of the 24 Varsity MTB riders were born in Cape Town and Pretoria – six each. All six Capetonians are competing for either of the Western Cape universities, UCT and Maties. There is one ‘defector’ among the Pretorians as Susan Kruger is a first year Civil Engineering student at Stellenbosch University rather than at her hometown Tuks or TUT.
11 – The most popular birth month for a Varsity MTB 2019 rider. All of Senamile Zulu (TUT), Morné Hollander, Susan Kruger, Catherine Pellow-Jarman (all Maties) and Jean-Marié Roelofse (Madibaz) were born in November to edge out January’s four.
18 – By being a few weeks short of her 19th birthday (7 November), Susan Kruger is the youngest of the competing Varsity MTB riders.
1997 – The highest number of 2019 Varsity MTB riders were born in this year: six. There are three in the women’s race, namely Stacey Hyslop (Madibaz), Nompumelelo Tshabalala (TUT) and Catherine Pellow-Jarman (Maties) while the men’s trio are Michael Sutton (Madibaz), Michael Lambrecht (UCT) and Morné Hollander (Maties).
Follow race updates via @VarsitySportsSA on social media. For full results, visit www.wines2whales.com/riders/results-archive/.
By Carlo Jonkerman