ACE-The Sufferfest is a cycling team comprised of young men and a woman hailing from Maseru, Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek in Lesotho. Their use of the acronym ACE, stands for “Academy of Cycling Excellence” and the “The Sufferfest” is one of the team’s sponsors. The organization scouts and develops talented riders from underprivileged backgrounds to compete in races.
The team was founded by Mark West in 2013 after serving for years in the Lesotho Cycling Association as a secretary. West says the creation of the team was inspired by talented riders he saw in Lesotho, during his time as secretary of the Cycling Association.
In the short period of the team’s establishment, the group has achieved many milestones. The team has competed in momentous races including the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup last year, in Pietermaritzburg and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland. They have also improved the international ranking of the Lesotho cycling team from third in Africa and 55th in the world, to second in Africa and 35th in the world. The sports team is categorized under the amateur group and trains voluntarily. With the description of the name ‘ACE-The Sufferfest’ it is clear that the organization is a sole entity and shares a global vision and passion with African Clean Energy to uplift communities.
We caught up with some of the members to learn a bit about their life journey and background. Starting with their place of residence:
Lesotho is a completely landlocked country inside South Africa. It is over 30,000 km2 in size and has a population of over two million. The capital city of Lesotho is Maseru and it is located on the Caledon River, direct on the Lesotho and South African boarder.
Their economy is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, mining, and depends heavily on inflows of workers and receipts from the Southern African Customs union (SACU).
Water and diamonds are Lesotho’s only significant natural resources. Diamonds are produced in Letšeng, Mothae, Liqhobong and Kao mines and are a major contributor to the exports of Lesotho. It also has nearly 6,000 kilometers of unpaved and modern all-weather roads. There is a short rail line linking Lesotho with South Africa, owned and operated by South Africa.
About 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of the US $1.25 a day.
Members of the ACE-The Sufferfest
Phetestso (31): “I joined ACE-The Sufferfest because it helps us travel and to experience different places. I have a dream of one day riding for a professional team and get paid to ride. ACE-The Sufferfest is giving me the experience and exposure to reach that dream. My most memorable race was at Eastern Cape. It was my first time to be there and we saw elephants. I have also travelled to Wales and Scotland. I have learned a lot. At first I was not a very good rider, but now I can see I am much better. When we go to international races we get an allowance and sometimes win cash prizes. This helps my family a lot because before we had nothing. Before joining the team my life was not so good. I could not even afford to put bread on the table. My message to youth is that sports are very important to keep them busy and away from drugs and bad behavior. Sports helps them to stay healthy and open-minded.”
Malefestane (18): “I joined ACE-The Suffesfest because I love cycling and ACE has taken me to places that I have never been before. I get motivation from the team and ACE helps us to get better equipment. I now have a nice bike and that helps me to be a better rider. My most memorable race was 3 Mountain recently in Clocolan because I worked very hard and got a great result. I have also travelled to Nanjing in China. What I have learned from being part of the team is to ride technical sections much better. The allowances we get from competing in international races help me to get food for my family and also buy clothes. Before joining ACE-The Sufferfest my life was no good. I even had to leave school because of a lack of money. But now I am able to go back to school because of the team. I like running and road-works. I can say to youth that sports are good for their future. They may get a chance to travel and experience new things.”
Likeleli(22): “I am looking to further my studies. I joined ACE because it takes me to many places and has helped to to get a new bike and equipment. ACE is helping me to fulfil my dream. My most memorable race was in Port Elizabeth. I really enjoyed that place.
I have learned to use gears and to climb hills better. Even though we are not paid, I still enjoy cycling. My aim is to be the best rider. ACE has bought me a nice bike. ACE team makes me very proud. Also when we get allowances for races it helps me to buy my basic needs. Before joining ACE my life was very difficult. My parents are both deceased and it was very difficult to find food, but life is better now. I play for a women’s soccer team and also enjoy running. Sport is good for youth because it helps to keep your minds fresh and bodies fit. A fit body is a healthy body.
Tseko (21): “I joined ACE-The Sufferfest because I love cycling. My most memorable race was at Mpumalanga. I have learned a lot from racing and I am still learning every day. I am not paid, but I love cycling and ACE helps to motivate me and helps with a lot of things. Through ACE-The Sufferfest, I have travelled a lot and seen many new places. Joining the team has helped me and also helped my parents to cope financially, as I am currently unemployed. I feel sport is good because a fit body will keep away illnesses.”
Katleho (17): “I joined ACE-The Sufferfest because it helps me to focus and that has kept me away from bad things such as drugs. I have learned a lot from being a member. ACE-The Sufferfest is motivating and developing me. I am a better rider now because of ACE. My most memorable race was at Mpumalanga because it was my first time to travel to a race outside Lesotho. I have also traveled to Botswana. I have learned to ride cross-country, which is more difficult than other mountain bike races as it is very fast and tricky. ACE is helping me to build my future. With the allowances I am able to survive and help my family. Before I joined ACE, I wasn’t even able to eat at school. Now I am able to buy myself food at lunchtimes. Young people should join sports activities to stay healthy, strong and have a bright future.”
Cycling has given a new lease of life to team members and their family. Mark West also emphasizes the importance of utilizing cycling as a form of transport, “Cycling is the green transport, we are also trying to remain a green sport in a sense of being environmentally friendly and not littering”.