Sipho Madolo – great experience to race in Europe
01 January 1970
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Gerald de Kock: Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast where we talk all matters mountain biking. Of course we meet the personalities and the people involved in this wonderful sport. This week we are at one of the wonderful Spur Schools League events out at Bloemendal near Durbanville Hills.
Hundreds and hundreds of kids getting to know the sport and getting involved in the sport, which is just a fantastic initiative. Thousands around the country, in fact today I think there are 6/7 events happening around the country.
One of those not taking part, but watching is a young man, Sipho Madolo. Who is, I think on a bit of a high at the moment. Sipho from the songo.info programme, kindly sponsored by Investec in Kayamandi. But Sipho is joining me here now. Sipho, welcome, firstly, why are you here?
Supporting and inspiring the kids
Sipho Madolo: The reason why I’m here is because when I started riding I started here, so I definitely believe that this is the future of mountain biking in the country. That’s only where you can see the talent of the kids. So it’s really cool to just come and support when you have time. That’s why I’m here, I just came to support all the kids and see how they’re doing.
GDK: How many kids have you got racing from Kayamandi, from Songo?
SM: From Songo we are 11 kids and they’re all in different age groups. So it’s really good to just come and spend a day here supporting them and the other kids racing.
GDK: It’s quite a story because you started here at Spur and you’re just back from overseas. You went to the World Champs, you went to a World Cup. So this is where you started and that’s where you are now. For the kids, it must be an amazing inspiration for them, they look up to you?
SM: It’s hard to say, but I definitely think they do. That’s why I decided to just come here today and support them. Because it’s really cool to see someone racing on the upper level and come and support you. I think it’s a big privilege for them.
Racing at the highest level
GDK: Tell us about your experiences over there, the World Champs and World Cups.
SM: I had a really good three solid weeks in Europe, started with the World Champs and finished with the World Cup and came back with the SA Champs. The World Champs was a bit tougher than I thought, but it was definitely a really great experience. It was cool to be in Europe and I was looking forward to doing my first Wold Cup and the World Cup was better than expected.
The course was not that technical and I was quite surprised, in Switzerland I thought maybe things would be the other way around. But the course was more like South African courses, they weren’t that technical and it wasn’t long, like 4.2km. So it was short and a really good track for me. I really enjoyed it and it was good to just go out there and race, like on the international level for two weeks.
GDK: It’s different, the World Cups and World Championships, they’re quite different in as much as perhaps the field isn’t quite as big at the World Championships. At the World Cup it almost looks like a huge bun fight, there’s such a big field isn’t there?
SM: The World Champs, it’s quite different because all the riders there are really good, all the riders that are there are good. If you make a really small mistake, you pay for it. But on the World Cup, all the riders are there, and it’s only the first top 20 riders who can ride as hard as they can.
At the back, if someone makes a mistake, you have to walk for a few seconds and then jump on the bike and ride again. It’s more like a fight at the back where everyone just fights for positions. It’s a great experience to just go out and race World Cup.
What did you learn from your European experience?
GDK: If you were to take one or two things out of it and come back and say, next time I go I will do that a little bit differently, what would it be?
SM: In South Africa we do race, pretty much every weekend and the cross country, we think it’s getting better and better. But going to Europe, it’s still, I think there’s still a big difference between us and the European guys. From the start they go flat out; whereas here, at the start, the guys are more playing tactics. But there, there’s no tactics, it’s just like a, they just go out from the very beginning. If you’re not that fast, then you’re not that fast.
GKD: Is it in intensity thing? Are they just racing at a higher intensity all the time?
SM: They’re on the really high intensity all the time and they’re really good technically.
GDK: Then you came back and raced the SA Champs here and again, it comes back to that intensity, smaller field, perhaps a different track and so the intensity. But you’ve just come back from Europe, do you feel an improvement immediately when you get on the bike at SA Champs?
SM: SA Champs was a bit tricky because I had to travel from Europe to home and then from home I had to drive to Pietermaritzburg –
GDK: From Stellenbosch?
SM: Yes, from Stellenbosch, so I didn’t really get time to rest, I was tired already. But I tried my best and it felt like it’s a bit different, way different compared to the European racing. The start is not that fast, here you’ll just have to fight with the position, like right from the beginning. Then you just hang in there where in Europe, it’s position the whole time.
GDK: You could therefore compare the two courses, Maritzburg and Novo Mesto.
SM: Novo Mesto was a really technical course and Switzerland was not bad, but still technical. SA Champs I think was a bit more technical, not that technical, it’s just the way they do courses. Like in Pietermaritzburg, they do some stuff on the flat sections where you have to keep the speed at the same time. You have to make sure that you don’t hit the rock or something.
In Europe the rock gardens are always on the, like maybe small downhill where you don’t have to pedal. You just have to keep your speed. But here it’s a bit tricky where you have to make sure that you’re concentrating the whole time. It’s not like in Europe. In Europe they make sure that even if you’re not that good technically, you can manage it. Here it’s a bit difficult, but I think it’s good for us.
Catching up with Christoph Sauser
GDK: Did you bump into your man Christoph over there?
SM: Of course, we did a few laps before the World Champs, on the course. That made a huge difference. Again, we had a few days together and had a coffee and we had to do the Lanzarote course together again, like a week later. So that was really cool, it was good to have him around.
GDK: That’s Christoph Sauser you rode the Cape Epic with this year. That’s still a big thing for you, you look back at that?
SM: To be honest, doing Epic with Christoph was something that I really wanted to do, like a long time ago. But it was a long time ago, I didn’t think I would do it this year. So I think I was really privileged to manage to achieve that goal this year. It put the pressure a bit, I don’t have that pressure now as I managed to ride it and how hard it is to ride with him. We’re trying together, but racing is different.
GKD: What are the rest of your goals for 2016 now?
Still to come in 2016
SM: For 2016, it’s more or less over because all I wanted to do was do the Epic with Christoph and then World Champs. But the main goal was to do World Cup, so I pretty much achieved everything I wanted to achieve this year. So it’s more relaxed the next 4-6 months. But next week I’m going to Europe for Columbia, it’s a stage race in Columbia. It’s a six-day stage race. Then after the stage race I’ll take a rest a bit.
GKD: Who are you going to be doing that with, or on your own?
SM: For me it’s definitely not like racing, but it’s to share the experience with one of the Songo boys. I’ve been racing on a really high level. So it’s really cool to just come back and give feedback to the programme and share the experience with the kids.
GDK: Fantastic, so one of them is going with you?
SM: One of them is going with me and he’s really excited.
GDK: How old is he?
GDK: Fantastic, what an opportunity, Investec Songo.info, you’re obviously deeply involved there. I know you’re racing and you’ve got your own things that you’re doing. But do you keep an eye on them, do you help them with training and with their preparations?
Great to be involved with the Songo.info kids
SM: I work at Songo, I work as a fulltime job. I have a fulltime job where I have to look after the kids. I have to make sure that the educational programme is going well, everything in the club house is going well. They go out to the races, they get to the races. Even though I don’t really have time to train with them, but I always try to make sure that things are going really well.
GDK: How many kids are involved at the moment at Songo.info?
SM: I think it’s plus-minus 100 kids in total, but we have more kids on the BMX and on the mountain bike. We’ve got three kids doing downhill and we do road bike as well, but just like a few races. It’s not like we have to focus on it.
GDK: What’s the most pressing need, the most urgent need at Songo.info do you think?
SM: I think for Kayamandi, you have to look at the needs of the community. The needs of the community, I think it’s education. We have to make sure that the programme, there’s a fine balance between education and riding. Yes, we want the kids to do well in the racing, but not as well as doing at school. Because school is really important and in our programme, school comes first. They’re here now, but it’s more a reward of doing well at school.
GDK: Right, finally, what’s your mountain bike ambition, what’s your goal in life?
Ultimate career goals?
SM: I really want to compete on the professional level, but I got there, now I think I’m hungry for more. I really want to do well, it would be nice to do Epic, if not next year, then the year after and maybe compete for African jersey.
GDK: Who would you like to ride it with as an African jersey? If somebody said pick a rider, you can ride with them?
SM: At the moment I think Stephan Senekal would be perfect, because he’s a really talented kid and he’s never done Epic before. But it would be nice to just go with him and share the experience and I know he can push me to the limit every day. That would be something that I’d really want for Epic as well.
GDK: Sipho, fantastic to bump into you here. Thanks for agreeing to chat to us, you do an immense amount for the community of Kayamandi and for the sport of mountain biking. How far is it from Stellenbosch to Bloemendal here?
SM: It’s like 30km.
GDK: You rode here?
SM: I rode here in the rain, it’s not bad, but it’s not safe riding on the road if it’s raining. But I had to ride here because I wanted to watch the Spur League.
GDK: And you’ll ride home?
SM: And I’ll ride back home after.
GDK: Fantastic, thanks very much for chatting to us. Sipho Madolo, how old are you?
SM: I’m 24, turning 25 in November.
GDK: He’s got so much time on his hands to fulfil those dreams, good luck with them.
SM: Thanks so much.
GDK: Sipho Madolo from Investec Songo Specialized and Songo.info and really fantastic experience of riding the World Champs, World Cups, SA Champs this year and the Cape Epic this year with Christoph Sauser. All dreams seem to come in one year, but he’s got plenty more dreaming ahead. Congratulations. You’ve been listening to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. Download once more and we’ll keep you up to date with everything that’s happening in this wonderful sport, thanks and cheers.