Pump for Peace Racing Team - February / March 2023 update

The team headed to South Africa in February for a 4-week team training camp in Stellenbosch to get the team aligned and prepared for the season. With their new kits and helmets from Endura and new Orbea Oiz bikes ready for racing, excitement was high to kick off 2023 in style. 

Faranak, Tumelo and Unathi at Tankwa Trek

The first week of team arrival was dedicated to setting up the bikes, a photoshoot and the first opportunity to collect UCI points at the National South African XCO Cup in Stellenbosch on the 4th of February followed by the Provincial XCO Cup the following day. The SA Cup and WP XCO Cup races both used the 2018 UCI World Cup track providing a very challenging course that required excellent skills to clear obstacles and both races featured strong local and international competition.  

All smiles as Faranak lines up at Tankwa Trek

National South African XCO Cup #1 and the Provincial XCO Cup in Stellenbosch 

Saturday saw Unathi fly through the first 3 laps but an unfortunate fall in the infamously difficult "pick up sticks” section, followed by a very unfortunate second crash in the last lap did not set up for the best day for our new rider. Unathi left the disappointment from the previous day behind him to ride a more steady and solid race the following day although a slow puncture in the last lap threw him a few places back and ultimately saw him crossing the line in 21st.

Faranak was challenged by the scorching heat, coming from zero degrees in Tehran to racing in 40 degrees is a big ask and having to cover her arms and legs due to the social regulations in Iran added to that strain. She managed the 90 minutes well and finished right behind the accomplished World Cup racers in 9th place. She perfected the “beat the heat” strategy the following day with grabbing ice socks and cold water bottles to pour over herself under the relentless South African sun and held the same position in the field as the day before to come 8th overall (moving one place up because of the DNS of Isla Short from Ghost Factory Racing). 

Tumelo did not have the best start in Saturday’s CO and was passed back in the first lap, but managed to keep a steady pace riding around his final 22nd place throughout. Tumelo took the feedback from his coach Renay Groustra to heart and started more focused to defend his position in the field the next day and finished a few places ahead of Unathi in 16th place.

Tumelo finished with an 11th place with team mate Unathi overall at Tankwa Trek

Tankwa Trek

For Tumelo and Unathi the Tankwa Trek stage race served as a dress rehearsal ahead of the Cape Epic. It was the first time that the two teamed up for a race together and it turned out that on a physical and skills level they match very well. A good match is one part, solid communication and getting along with each other off the bike to work well together under pressure is just as important. It seems that our two Africans already formed a good bond on all levels and it was amazing to see how well they rode tactically, pacing themselves extremely well over the challenging and long stages. The pair finished within the top 10 on the last two stages and 11th overall over the 4 days.

Faranak teamed up with African XCO Champion U23, Andrea Schöfmann from South Africa. Although Faranak took to the start line in a couple of stage races before, injury or illness previously prevented her from finishing the multi-day races. For Andrea, this was her first ever stage race experience. Both riders admit that the long “stuff” isn’t quite theirs, but were up for the challenge nonetheless. The women took a bit longer to find a good rhythm together, but by the last stage, which was more to their liking, being more technical and shorter than stages 2 and 3, they showed off their skills and finished within the top 5 overall that got them a solid 7th place on GC.

Unathi at Tankwa Trek

Bloemendal Western Cape XCO 

This smaller race was the perfect opportunity for our riders to improve their race tactics since they were much closer to the podium positions in this less competitive field. Race winning decision making can be developed a lot easier when a rider is in the actual position to pull off a top result. Plus it gives a much needed confidence boost to get a good result. In that sense, the XCO in Bloemendal was a very important outing for the team. 

Faranak played her cards right to take the win after a close battle with her Tankwa Trek partner Andrea Schöfmann. Tumelo finished in 6th and Unathi in 9th place having raced for 4th place for the majority of the race. 

Tumelo is headed back to his homestead  to focus on preparation for the upcoming Cape Epic and for some needed family time while Unathi is getting ready for the South African Marathon Championship this weekend. Faranak will be staying in South Africa for a few weeks and will use the opportunity to improve her skills on the amazing trails around Stellenbosch and Cape Town. 

Upcoming races

  • 4 March SA XCM Championships in Paarl, for Unathi
  • 19-26 March Absa Cape Epic, for Tumelo and Unathi
  • 15 April SA XCO Championship in Pretoria, for Unathi
  • 22 April African Continental Championships - TBC!, for Unathi and Tumelo
  • 23 April Heubacher MTB Festival, for Faranak
  • 28 April Namibia XCO in Windhoek, for Unathi and Tumelo
  • 30 April Grazer Bike Opening, for Faranak
  • 7 May ÖKK Bike Revolution in Chur, for Faranak
  • 27 May SA XCO Cup in Bloemfontein, for Unathi and Tumelo