Matric cyclist Adrian John ‘AJ’ Blake (19) from Diazville High School in Saldanha Bay will be flying to the Tour de France in June 2020 on an all-expenses-paid, 12-day trip to this apex cycling event.
On 2 March at school assembly AJ, who has been part of the Nedbank Sports Trust Cycling Development Programme for the past six years, received his air ticket and cycling jersey from the sponsor, Disfruta Sports Tours.
AJ is an advanced cyclist and was selected as the recipient of the sponsorship based on his ability, commitment, camaraderie and leadership. He always makes sure that any of his cycling team members who are lagging behind are assisted and brought up to speed.
‘Disfruta Sports Tours has a three-year renewable agreement to sponsor cyclists in this programme to be part of our annual group tour to the Tour de France,’ says the founder of Disfruta Sports Tours, Faldiel Bassadien. ‘It’s our way of giving back to cycling and we feel this programme is the best vehicle through which to do so. We have experienced the good work that The Sports Trust has been doing with Nedbank’s funding support to develop cycling in our disadvantaged communities over many years, and the strong structures they have in place in the participating schools.’
Diazville High is one of 12 high schools in the Western Cape that are part of the Nedbank Sports Trust Cycling Development Programme, funded by Nedbank, together with The Sports Trust, since 2005. The programme supplies bikes and supports the training and participation of over 200 cyclists annually from high schools and communities across the Western Cape, including the Cape Flats, Boland, Kraaifontein and the West Coast.
‘It’s a dream of mine to one day compete against the best cyclists in the world at the Tour de France, which I always watch on television,’ says AJ. ‘To have this opportunity to actually be there, to experience the race and what it’s like to cycle in those mountains is an incredible gift. It really hasn’t sunk in properly as this will also be my first time to go overseas.’
‘It gives us great satisfaction to see how far cyclists like AJ and many others have progressed on the cycling development programme,’ says Bernice van der Walt, Marketing Manager of the Nedbank Sport Affinity programme. ‘The programme requires commitment and concentration, and this, in turn, enhances not only their cycling performance, but very importantly, their achievement in the classroom.’
In March AJ will be competing in his sixth Cape Town Cycle Tour. He was awarded his Western Cape cycling colours, he is regularly among the top riders in the highly competitive Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races and he won the 2019 Langebaan Lagoon Cycle Challenge.
The 12-day Tour de France trip includes 20 cyclists from all walks of life. They experience three stages of the Tour de France, and several tough rides in the Franch, including competing in the L’Etape du Tour de France, an extremely challenging mountain race covering one of the stages of the Tour. It takes place five days after the Tour. They will also spend time in Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Antibes.
Last year’s recipients of this sponsorship are Vuyo Mavuya and Vuyolwethu Nkomo, both from Khayelitsha, who came through the cycling development programme and are now competing professionally.
They greatly benefited from their Tour de France experience – they said it taught them about the levels of commitment, discipline and camaraderie required to cycle at this level. It was also their first trip out of the country and they were blown away by the Alps. Both commented that if we think we’ve got mountains in this country ‘you must go and ride the Alps’! Their 2019 group so enjoyed themselves that they have since set up a fund for their continued advancement and higher education studies.
Nedbank is a founding trustee of The Sports Trust and provides support through its Nedbank Sport Affinity Programme. When you use any of the Nedbank Sport Affinity accounts, Nedbank donates money to The Sports Trust for the funding of sport development, talent identification and transformation in underresourced communities, which assists with talent growth and the transformation of sport.