When AWOL Tours was asked if we could offer a unique cycling experience for a high profile guest who was a fit road cyclist and ‘IronMan’ competitor, we immediately conjured up a plan of offering a Winelands cycling tour with a pro rider – but not just any pro rider. We arranged a Winelands road biking tour with Songezo Jim, the first black professional road biker in South Africa.
Songezo Jim is South African professional cyclist, a feat he achieved against amazing odds. He was orphaned at 14, and moved from the Eastern Cape to Masiphumelele with his aunt. It was here that he first witnessed the Cape Town Argus Cycle Tour, and decided, ‘I’m going to do that!’ He was 15 years old and couldn’t ride a bike, but within a few years was recruited into the Dimension Data team. He made history in 2015 when he became the first Black South African to ride the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia in 2016.
On the day of the Winelands tour, Songezo and our support driver met our guest at the hotel. As this was a private cycling tour the guest choose what distance and route after discussion over the map with options. Our guides always opt to recommend cycling routes that are away from the busy roads. After a challenging 50km ride over the Franschhoek mountain pass with spectacular views of the rugged mountain peaks, we had lunch at a local wine estate followed by some winetastings.
Back in 2015 he established the Songezo Jim Cycling Academy in Masiphumelele, by sourcing the funding for 15 bikes. ‘We are each other’s family’ he says of the academy, which aims to get kids onto bikes and into a healthy, active lifestyle. Living in a township with a drug and crime problem, the cycling academy gives them another choice.
Songezo’s dream has always been to take part in the Tour de France, and he has participated in the Cape Argus Cycle Tour every year since he became a rider. He has earned many career distinctions including finishing third in the African Championships in 2013, and now his young protégés are following in his footsteps and bringing home the medals. His academy is dedicated to this valuable work and says: ‘Together we can achieve so much more on and off the bike.’
Songezo Cycling Academy members have had some good results at local Western Cape Cycling race events. At the APPA Cyclosportive #6 (56 km) on 29 September 2019 at Simonsvlei Wine Estate brought Siphathelele Sotomela, Sibusiso Motsopi, Surprise Gwenzi and Yamkela Masibhunge finished in 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th positions, also taking the first 4 places in the under 17 age category. In the WP Cycling Perdeberg race Marc Denhere finished second in Category 3, while Siphathele Sotomela and Surprise Gwenzi finished first and third in the under 17 age category. Lisakhanya Mbana took first place in the under 15 age group. In the next WP Cycling event held at the Killarney race track, Siphathele Sotomela was the winner in the under 17 age group.
Songezo’s story echoes that of another much loved SA hero, our 2019 Rugby World Cup champion captain Siya Kholisi, who’s life was also transformed by sport. Both have put in time, dedication, and intense discipline to reach the top of their fields and now aim to do the same for others. His twitter profile perfectly encapsulates his positive outlook on life: “A bike rider. Life is about moments; enjoy every single one of them!”
If you book a Masiphumelele township tour with AWOL Tours, you might be lucky enough to run into this local legend at the workshop AWOL Tours sponsors for his cycling academy. For those athletes who would like a more challenging workout with a remarkable and inspiring rider, Songezo Jim and the young riders of the Cycling Academy would be keen to ride with any guests visiting the Cape.
To find out more click here. Donations to the Songezo Jim cycling academy are also welcome.