Howick – In Nelson Mandela’s book, Long Walk To Freedom, he says that he has “never regarded women as in any way less competent than men”.
When those memoirs were published in 1994 Tiffany Keep was not yet born, but the inspirational first democratic President of South Africa could well have been talking about the 17-year-old cycling star when he uttered that quote.
In 2018 Keep can spend Women’s Day reflecting on a stunning season of victories in 2018 while looking forward to another potential win in the event named after the Father of the Nation, the Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash which takes place on Saturday 25th August at the Mandela Capture Site near Howick.
After collecting a full house of junior women’s titles this year at South African cycling championships â€“ road race, road time trial, MTB cross country and MTB marathon, the Thomas More matric student will assume the mantle as favourite for the Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash. The prestigious event in honour of the global icon will also be Keep’s final race before she heads overseas to test herself against the rest of the world in the Mountain Bike World Championships in Switzerland in early September.
In the Mandela Day MTB Dash in 2017, Keep was beaten into second place by Bianca Haw, but after her stellar season this year the quadruple SA Champion is the early favourite to take the title.
This weekend the Silverback Volvo team rider cruised to an impressive fifth overall at the 40km race at the popular Illovo Eston Marathon, a result that easily gave her the women’s victory, while the junior has been regularly finishing as the top female rider in a number of road and mountain bike events this season.
“This season I have been very happy with my results,” said Keep on Wednesday afternoon. “I have managed to achieve most of my goals for the year and have been able to achieve all I wanted to at the national championships.
“My main goal for the season was to be selected for the South African team to go to the World Championships and I am aiming for a top ten in the junior race in Switzerland, but I know that will be tough, so as long as I go and race as hard as I can and see what happens I will be happy.
“The Mandela Day race will be the last race before I go to the World Championships. It was the same last year when I had a good tussle with Bianca Haw for most of the race. It is good for me to race against older riders so I can push myself and that gives me good motivation before I go overseas.
“The course is always nice there. There is quite a lot of fast district road riding and a fair amount of climbing, as well as lots of single track which I really enjoy.
“And of course the fact the race is named in honour of Nelson Mandela adds to the event. He was a great man and so to race in an event that is in his honour just makes the event even more special.”
The 42km, 21km and 10km fun ride events at the Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash races are part of a weekend of events that also include a road running marathon, trail runs, a fun run and a triathlon, all in honour of former President Nelson Mandela.
With a healthy prize fund that includes R10 000 each for the winning man and woman in the 42km race, the mountain bike event offers what is believed to be one of the bigger prize funds for a one-day classic MTB distance event, and as such normally attracts a strong field of riders.