Cycle for rhinos: the uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge

Posted on 23 November 2018

Sports, adventure and conservation enthusiasts are rallying support for the upcoming uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge taking place from 6-8 December. The tough mountain-biking race benefits anti-poaching efforts aimed at protecting rhinos, preparing rangers and engaging communities.

Rugby player Joe Pietersen hands on with dehorning a rhino as part of his Nkombe Rhino project. He has urged athletes and conservation-conscious South Africans to support the uBhejaneX MTB Challenge. Supplied: Gameplan Media.

This year, former Sharks and Stormers international rugby player and coach Joe Pietersen is excited to participate in the race, known colloquially as the ‘uBhejaneX’. No stranger to rhino conservation, the rugby-loving wildlife ambassador is the founder of the Nkombe Rhino campaign, a big proponent of dehorning programmes.

Pietersen said he was inspired to take part in this year’s race when chatting with fitness and media personality, Stacey Holland. ‘It is something very close to my heart, so I didn’t hesitate when I heard about the uBhejaneX ride as a way to get involved,’ he said.

Entry into the main event on Saturday 8 December will cost you R1,000 – which covers your meals, kit, event assistance, and accommodation at the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Afterward, riders will enjoy dinner with guest speaker and one of uBhejaneX’s ambassadors, Kingsley Holgate.

Before even setting out or supping with the adventurous Holgate, prospective riders are required to raise R5,000 for uBhejane’s primary rhino conservation benefactor, Project Rhino KZN, before they can be allowed to enter the race.

Rugby player Joe Pietersen watches a rhino and her calf.  Supplied: Gameplan Media.

The major fundraising and conservation initiative is no walk in the park. The main uBhejaneX route, the Longhorn, is one of the toughest mountain-biking challenges out there – it’s a 340km adventure through Zululand in KZN’s high summer temperatures.

Riders start out early at 2am in Hillcrest and have 16 hours to complete the one-day race to the finish line at Hilltop Camp. Entry into the main event stresses health and fitness as a prerequisite to participating.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an international athlete to make a difference. This year, the uBhejaneX team has introduced a three-day event* that breaks up the 340km and commences on Thursday 6 December. Other regular routes on the main race day include the Shorthorn (240km), Baby Horn (110km) and Orphan route (31km).

Supplied: Gameplan Media

‘I would really like to encourage anyone with any sort of fitness level, and a passion for protecting our rhino, to join me on one of the rides, whether it is the three-day ride, the iconic 340km one day ride, the 250km, the 100km or the short ride from the Rhino statue at Hluhluwe to Hilltop camp on Saturday afternoon,’ Pietersen appealed.

If you need any more encouragement, check out this short clip from the man himself:


*The entry cost for the three-day event is R2,000.

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