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Rafiq Kamaldien is a 31-year-old avid cyclist who has risen fast in competitive cycling in his four-year cycling career. A passionate and keen employee of Cape Mental Health, Rafiq is going an extra 109 km to support us!

We sat down with Rafiq to chat about his cycling career and why he had taken up this great initiative to champion Cape Mental Health in the Cape Town Cycle Tour taking place on 10 March 2019.

 

What got you interested in the sport? 

I was introduced to the world of cycling in 2014 through a colleague at my previous place of employment who cycles. He asked me to drive his car to Hermanus and back, while he cycled the entire route. We left on a Saturday morning from Soneike in Kuils River and went all the way to Hermanus.  Seeing the view and taking in what you don’t get to experience when driving past these beautifully serene areas is what sparked my interest. You don’t get to see the beauty and the nice things that you are able to witness while cycling.

Then one Wednesday night, my colleague asked me to join him at Bellville Velodrome – he wanted me to tag along to see for myself. It is here where I was introduced to track cycling and that is a whole new ball game. Track cycling is basically fixed cog, no brakes and that’s where I fell in love with the sport and I said to myself: “This is what I want to do.”

 

What about the track racing enticed you to take up the sport?

Track racing is fast and the adrenaline rush is extreme. I would say that when you’re cycling on a road bike you can ride and then you can freewheel, which means that you are able to recover on flatter terrain after climbing a hill or two. When you’re on a track bike it’s fixed cog; this means that there is no slack to recover and no brakes. You are constantly pushed to your limits on the circuit as you complete one lap after the other. Once I started doing track races myself, I found the love for it because it pushes my limits as a sportsman. So you push yourself and want to improve and achieve greater heights in your performance.

With track races, you get different categories: you get CAT-A which is for the ‘pros’ (experts); CAT-B is for the cyclists who are proficient, and then you get CAT-C which is for the beginners (novices). So I started in CAT-C against boys between the ages of 16 and 20 years old. It was a bit demoralising, simply because I was older, but then I saw young cyclists in their teens flying past me and I tried to put in the full effort but still couldn’t catch them. Then I learnt that they had been training on the bike from the age of 12 and the youngest cycler on the track was 6 years old. I then went and watched the veterans in the sport, with the likes of John Moss who was 78 years old and he is still an avid cyclist. This motivated me and I started putting in the effort and the hours and my performance on the bike increased dramatically.

 

At what point did you have the courage to cycle competitively?

In the beginning, it wasn’t just a hobby; I was always competitive but at the level of my fitness and experience on the bike. In my first year I didn’t do anything miraculous. I started finding my feet in my second year and this gradually grew to the point where I ended up with the ‘pros’, because with each road race your seating goes up – starting at Z and ending at A. You have to work your way up to A and it’s not a walk in the park to get there. The more hours and effort you put in, the greater your chance will be of getting there. 

Ultimately, I didn’t make the conscious decision to become competitive to the level where I am today. It was my coach, Faizel Thomas, who told me: “You’re done playing; you’ve got the ability, the mental strength and all the qualities to be the best.” It was his decision to place me in the CAT-A bunch.

 

What are some of your career highlights?

My proudest moment during the course of my sporting career was finishing my first Paarl Boxing Day 25 Mile. This track race stretches 1500 meters long, which takes roughly 87 laps and you’re never doing anything under 40 km/h. Finishing this race was the proudest moment of my life. Other achievements I can mention off the top of my head would be winning the 1500-meter event on the track as well as winning a few Western Province races.

Being placed and having the opportunity to be on the podium to represent the club and my team, the Cape Town Giants Cycling Club, as well as having my wife and daughter cheering me on at my races have been the proudest moments in my career.

 

What are some of your highlights when cycling in a team?

If you’re racing in an event and you are on your own, there is no way that you can win. It’s all about team effort, the game plan and getting through challenges together. Besides that, it’s great having a bunch of good friends around you. Training becomes something you look forward to because you are not alone and it brings all kinds of people together. Our club has men and women from all walks of life and ages, including children who enjoy the sport as much as the adults. It’s not just all about the blood, sweat and the training; it’s also about enjoying yourself and enjoying what the sport has to offer and the great things you get exposed to while on the bike.

 

How did you get involved with training youth in this sport?

I was approached by the parents, and even the children themselves, to help the children train. I work on training schedules and eating schedules for them to follow.

I have two girls and two boys between the ages of 14 and 17 years who train under me. So for me it is amazing to see them come out and also participate in the sport and be a part of the team that we are building for the future.

 

What has your experience been like training the youth in your club?

It makes me proud because my four trainees are phenomenal. At their age, they are still tender and don’t know the competitive nature of the sport to the extent that I do. The two 17-year-old boys have a better understanding of the competitiveness that comes with the sport because they ride for Western Province Road Champs and Track Champs. But for them to go out and enjoy themselves is great. They compete in the same category and I taught them to help each other when they race. Nine times out of ten, one of the two manages to be placed and take up a spot on the podium.

The two girls who train under me are also doing amazing things on the bike. They have always managed to be placed and be on the podium at their Western Province races and in Pedal Power Association’s races. I don’t want the recognition for their achievements, but it’s great to see them excel at the sport.

 

Why take on this charitable initiative?

I work at Cape Mental Health and have seen how creating new opportunities and experiences for people living with mental disabilities as well as physical disabilities changes their lives. Doing the charity run will help people living with a disability in our communities to enjoy greater inclusion and acceptance. As a non-profit organisation, we rely on donors and sponsors to aid the organisation in providing range of community-based mental health services to the people who need them most. My suffering doing the race twice will never be as much as the struggles they face on a daily basis, dealing with ‘normal’ life issues. Helping the organisation raise money as well as promoting awareness around mental health in our communities is a proud moment for me in its own.

 

What are you looking forward to the most at the Cape Town Cycle Tour?

Just standing on the start line because there’s the most amazing atmosphere and environment ahead of the race, even though it is just as nerve-wracking as well.

 

If you haven’t donated your R109 yet, you can do so now! You can still support this incredible initiative spearheaded by one of Cape Mental Health’s very own. Simply email dylan@cmh.org.za to get your donation form and help us #SpinOff4MentalHealth

[ Posted 8 March 2019 ]

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