The Cycle4Diabetes relay was a very personal journey for former national road cyclist Zanele Tshoko.
The annual three-day ride to raise awareness for the disease took place over a distance of 600km between Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg recently and the 24-year-old said she felt “connected” to the cause.
“It was a special and important event for me to be a part of,” said Tshoko, who has friends and family living with diabetes.
“We take this disease for granted. Some of us don’t know that it is a killer disease, and it is important to know the risk of it.”
She said that it was not an easy thing to manage, but, if you kept yourself healthy, did exercise, took your medicine and followed your doctor’s advice, it could be manageable.
Four teams of four riders – each affected by diabetes in some way – took part in the event and were involved in five activations on the route.
Tshoko, who races for the Team Bestmed-ASG outfit, was joined by her manager Owen Botha. Gerhard Moolman and his son Marco, a Type 1 Diabetic, were the other members of their team.
Dr Jacques van Staden took charge of the C4D quartet while Mogomotsi Mashigo was in control at City of Johannesburg. Former national star Luthando Kaka, who placed fifth in the inaugural Tshwane Classic the day after the relay, led the Rand Water team.
The first leg took the riders from Sandton in Gauteng to Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal in sweltering conditions.
The day was divided into three parts with the four teams riding together in the morning. C4D and Rand Water combined to take charge of the lunch session while Bestmed-ASG and City of Johannesburg finished off the leg.
Tshoko said the heat made it a struggle early on, but things improved as sunset approached and it started cooling down.
The following day saw a combined effort to Dundee, with the last leg taking them to Pietermaritzburg.
“The final day was hard,” said Tshoko. “I was tired after 50km, but pushed myself and it was amazing to get to the finish line and to know that I was riding for a good cause.”
The Capetonian said it was the first time that she took on an endurance challenge of this nature and hoped to be back.
“It was inspiring to go to the communities and to educate them. One thing that I learnt is that you are never too young to get diabetes – the disease doesn’t choose age.”