Izimbali means "flowers", or "to blossom", in Zulu. "As this is an all-female team, we wanted the name to reflect their femininity. We believe that the name is very apt as our hope for these girls is that they will blossom into well-rounded, self-confident women, both on and off the bike," says Shaun Peschl of Peschl Sports and Programme Director for the GO!Durban Cycle Academy.
Previously in South Africa, there has been little to no support for African women in cycling, and there has never been a team solely dedicated to the advancement of black female riders. Velosolutions and #pumpforpeace believes that is it important to address this gap in the sport by creating a platform where the potential of young African women can be unlocked. Not only is this beneficial for the empowerment of individual athletes and for the growth of cycling on the African continent, but it also has a knock-on effect in their local communities where they become role models for other girls to believe that they can achieve their dreams. Cycling is not seen as a "girl's" sport in typical township communities, but these ladies are defying stereotypes and changing perceptions of what is possible with hard work, determination and the right team of support around you!
The GO!Durban Cycle Academy was launched in 2016 as a partnership between the eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) and Durban Green Corridors (DGC), a non-profit organisation. By creating a safe space for disadvantaged youth to play and learn through sport, the programme provides free cycling training, academic support and life skills for youth aged 7 - 18 at a number of bike park sites in the eThekwini region.
Similarly to Velosolutions, the GO!Durban Cycle Academy aims to promote a healthy and active lifestyle by encouraging cycling in communities, whether it be for recreation, competing or commuting.
This synergy came together with a bang in March 2018 when the first Velosolutions track in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, was built in KwaDabeka, a township located 30 minutes outside of Durban. The South African qualifier event for the inaugural Red Bull Pump Track World Championships was also held here in April 2018, and the track has since become a hive of cycling activity in the community.
"Velosolutions is active around the globe, but focuses on every small town where we build a track as if it was our own," explains Claudio Caluori, Managing Director of Velosolutions.
"We are grateful for what we are able to achieve in these towns and we want to give back where we can. Durban is very close to our hearts, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to support this first black African women's MTB team in South Africa with girls that have been developed through the GO!Durban Cycle Academy."
Earlier this year, Peschl Sports identified the need to create an elevated team structure to fully grow the skills of the most promising riders of the GO!Durban Cycle Academy, and to give them insight and experience as to how a professional team operates. With his own background as a professional rider and manager of the Kargo-Pro MTB Team (2014-2016), Shaun Peschl is excited about partnering with another former professional rider (Claudio) and a brand that is as passionate about cycling development as he is.
"We are thrilled to have Velosolutions and #pumpforpeace on board for this journey. We have unearthed incredible talent through the GO!Durban Cycle Academy and we are eager to see what can be achieved with additional support from partners such as Velosolutions, who have extensive knowledge in the industry and a desire to see young cyclists thriving on the world stage."
Meet the team
Grade 11: Sithokozile Secondary School
Future Goal: to become a marine pilot
I learned how to ride a bicycle when I was growing up through a friend who had a bike.
Cycling Goals: What I wish to achieve as a growing cyclist is to travel around the world and represent my team, GO! Durban, my city and as well as my country South Africa.
I love cycling because it has taught me that I can make a living from what I thought was just a hobby. I think it is important for more girls to join cycling because we do not have enough black girls in this sport and it will help them not to do negative things.
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #1: 2nd Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #2: 6th Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #3: 7th Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #4: 5th Place Youth Girls
• Marriott Freedom Race 20km: 2nd place women
• KZN Cycling Youth Crit Road Series Finals: 1st place U14Girls
Grade 9: Buhlebemfundo Secondary School
Future Goal: When I grow up I want to be a doctor because I love helping people who are sick and injured and because I am a very brave.
I joined the GO! Durban cycle academy in 2016 and that is when I got my first bike lesson.
Cycling Goals: My goals in cycling are to make it into the SA Women's National Team.
I love cycling because it keeps me fit and flexible. I love the bike park because it is where I spend time with my friends when I am not at home doing house chores. I think it is important for girls in my community to join our cycling academy because they will learn new skills like commitment, communication, as well as life skills that will guide them in their journey of life. It will also motivate them to keep their grades high at school like I do.
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #2: 9th Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #4: 10th Place Youth Girls
• Marriott Freedom Race 20km: 4th place women
Grade 11: Reservoir Hills Secondary
Future Goal: When I grow up I want to be a nurse because I love helping people and seeing them living a longer healthy life. My second option is to become a pro female cyclists because I will make money while living my dream.
I was introduced to a bike when I was 4 years old and I taught myself how to ride it. I have never looked back since then because even in my primary school years I was good at it. I joined the GO! Durban cycle academy in July 2017.
Cycling Goals: My goals in cycling are to learn doing different tricks and make history by racing on an international level.
I love cycling because it gave me strength and bravery to express who I am. Growing up I was shy and I couldn’t talk to people easily, but after coming to the bike park I am now able to talk to anyone without hesitation.
It’s important for girls in my community to join our cycling academy because they will get exposure to so many opportunities that they never knew or thought they can even get. Cycling will keep them safe and away from doing bad habits that will destroy their future.
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #1: 3rd Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #2: 7th Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #3: 8th Place Youth Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #4: 8th Place Youth Girls
• Marriott Freedom Race 20km: 6th place women
Grade 7: Khulugqame Full Service School
Future Goal: When I grow up I want to be a professional cyclist and work for an organization like GO!Durban to pass the batton of my cycling skills to the young upcoming cyclists.
I learned to cycle at an early age when my dad introduced me to a bike when I was 5 years old. He motivated me to join the GO!Durban cycle academy in August 2017 as he could see the passion I have for cycling and he knew the bike park is safe and I would learn more as I was limited by the environment of cycling on the street.
I love cycling because it fulfils me and it is the one thing that completes me. When I'm on a bike I feel fearless, happy and powerful, like I can take over the world.
Cycling Goals: My goals in cycling are to learn and train more in order for me to be the best amongst the best and pave my way to being a professional in this sport.
I think more girls must come and join GO! Durban cycle academy because at the bike park we not only learn about cycling, but there are other things too, like we have academic classes where we are taught English, we learn different values, and they even help us with school work.
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #3: 3rd place Sub-Junior Primary Girls
• 2018 KZN Spur Schools League #4: 3rd place Sub-Junior Primary Girls
• Marriott Freedom Race 20km: 3rd place women
• KZN Cycling Youth Crit Road Series Finals: 1st place U12 Girls