‘For me mountain biking is not merely a sport. It’s a way of life which not only gives me hope but also a positive outlook on life. My ultimate goal is to prove that anything is possible.’
With such a positive outlook it is no surprise that William Mokgopo (Kargo) has already represented South Africa three times at the Cross Country World Championships.
On Saturday he will compete in the first SA Cup event at Mankele, just outside of Nelspruit and is quite realistic about what awaits him.
‘The Mankele course does not really suit my style of riding. I’m at my best when there is a lot of climbing to be done. Mankele has only one big climb. The rest of the course is flat and technical.
‘It is going to be an interesting race because it is a season opener. None of us really know what to expect. The race will be a good indication of who did the hard work over the festive season. I’ll be happy if I can get a top-10 finish.’
Mokgopo’s best result in a SA Cup race was finishing seventh last year at Voortrekkerhoogte.
The HPC-rider plans to do things slightly more normal than he did during previous years. ‘In the past my main focus was always to get good results in cross country races which I consider to be the ultimate form of racing. But last year I won the Sabie Marathon which led to the decision makers of Cycling South Africa suggesting that I should become more involved in the longer format of racing as well.
‘So my goal will be to try to qualify for the UCI Marathon Championships in Laissac, France (25-26 June), as well as for the UCI Cross Country World Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave (28 June to 3 July).’
When listening to the HPC-rider talking about mountain biking, his passion for the sport is obvious. Over the past eight years he had to overcome a number of setbacks.
The worst of these setbacks was probably when his mountain bike was stolen in 2010. Mokgopo, who grew up in Diepsloot, could not find the means to replace it and his only option was to quit the sport for two years.
It was Exxaro who gave him a new lease of life as a mountain biker when they decided to set up a mountain biking academy for talented black riders in 2012. Since then Mokgopo has completed the Absa Cape Epic on three occasions.
If he manages to get an entry for the Epic again this year, Mokgopo, who will be riding with Jurgens Uys, hopes to do so for a fourth time.
‘My long-term plan is to begin my own motivational speaking programme because I want to impart the lessons I’ve learned to younger children. I want them to realise that with hard work and determination you can rise above your circumstances and achieve your dreams.’
Picture of Mokgopo courtesy of Reg Caldecott