Organisers of the annual Gem Diamonds Kalahari Challenge are calling on locals to increase their participation in the event. The race – on its 13th year – has grown tremendously over the years. Entries for the race will be open until May 5. The riders will take part in a 273km route, which includes 2400m of climbing over three days and the Conquest route covering 185km. It will take place on June 9-11, 2017. The Race Director Seamus O’Neill said they have decided to include many local riders who register at discounted rate. He said it is their desire to promote the event and the sport of mountain biking in particular. “We have decided this year to make a special effort to include as many local riders as possible in the event. This is for Botswana riders only and we have called it the Magwinya Express,” he said. He said this is because their sponsors want to see many local riders taking part in the challenge to build a base of local riders who will be able to complete confidently in the Southern African cycling scene. He said the route will be more challenging this year. “We will be looking at adding a single and a few rock climbs to add some more excitement to the riding experience and we are also happy that Avani has come on board and will be the full hospitality suite partner for the whole event. In addition and they will also provide a slow lounge at the campsite where there will also be WIFI capacity,” he said. KBL, Scania, Supersport and BBi have all come on board. They are to meet the Botswana Tourism Organisation to seek ways of bringing them on board as well.
Stanbic Bank serves as the lead Sponsor. Stanbic Botswana’s Head of Customer Channels Calistus Chijoro said they are thrilled to support and grow their already strong relationship with the race organisers. He said after they got into the three-year partnership last year, are humbled to be woven into a narrative of the annual event through sponsorship as well as participation because most of the Stanbic Bank employees are avid passionate cyclists. “We are very proud to be associated with the Gem Diamonds Kalahari MTB Challenge which was nominated as a finalist of the African Sponsorship of the Year by the Discovery Sport Industry Award 2016 because from its humble beginnings,” he said. He said they are drawn towards the initiative because it has the power to champion greater wellness as well as bring communities together. Community Liaison Councillor John Taolo said they are also happy as the community to be on board in supporting the challenge, because young people learn a lot from this. “There was need to involve the community around where the challenge is passing through because before young boys used to mug the cyclists, but now they cheer them up since they understand what they are doing and why they are doing it,” he said Botswana Cycling Association representative Kagiso Potongwane encouraged the riders to come on board.