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The formidable MTB cyclist - Phetetso Monese

Phetetso Monese who is one of Lesotho’s top cyclists

Nov. 19, 2020 4 min read

4 min read

MASERU- Anyone who closely follows cycling in Africa has probably heard of Phetetso Monese who is one of Lesotho’s top cyclists and who has over the years made a name for himself in the cycling world.

Monese rides for the ACE – The Sufferfest – Lesotho Mountain Bike (MTB) team, and is also the outfit’s captain and anchor. The team is now ranked among the top 40 in the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rankings, an unprecedented achievement in African cycling. Over the years, he has won more than 10 national titles and can still show a clean pair of heels to his competitors on any given day in a good race.

In the past years, he was ranked amongst the top 105 riders but he has gone down to position 312 in the latest UCI rankings. Internationally, the formidable rider is known as the strong ‘Rasta’ due to his long dreadlocks. He is part of the first Lesotho team to feature in the UCI Lesotho Sky stage race, coming second overall and winning day four of the rigorous event.

He qualified for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games that were held in Brazil, becoming the first cyclist to represent Lesotho at the Olympics. Born on September 22, 1984, in Mohale’s Hoek, Monese is a cross-country mountain biker who appeared 21st at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

He is also the highest-ranking black African rider on the UCI rankings. The 35-year-old father of two reflects on how tough it has been balancing work, family, and cycling over the years. 

"My cycling journey has not been easy at all. But it taught me that through hard work and perseverance, anything is achievable,” Monese told the Olympic Channel. He is the son of Teboho and ’Malesenya Monese of Mohale’s Hoek but he was bred in Maseru. He attended an Islamic primary school before he went to study at Abia High School where he finished in 2005.

When he completed his high school studies, Monese who began riding in primary school focused his attention on cycling and applied a lot of effort in making the sport successful in Lesotho.

He first competed in the 2001 marathon, riding from Maputsoe to Botha Bothe. His local accolades comprise three National Cross Country Marathon gold medals he collected in 2013, 2014, and 2015. He won the Wines to Whales race in 2017 and 2018 and the 2019 Lesotho Sky cross border race.

He was a national champion for 10 years and is the 2017 Lesotho National Champion in the XCM Men Elite category. He is the 2017 Lesotho Sky silver medalist, a position he shared with Marais Stuart of South Africa. He also won silver at the National Championships XCO-XCE Men Elite the same year.

He appeared third at the Lesotho Sky Men Elite in 2018 alongside his teammate Tumelo Makae in Roma. He won a silver medal at the National Championships XCO XCE Men Elite the same year. He appeared 13th amongst 29 participants at the 2018 SA XCO Cup series and UCI Junior Series XCO in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

He competed extensively in South Africa and the rest of the African continent. He finished 18th among the 21 participants at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Gold 

Coast, Australia. He also finished 11th at the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival XCO and UCI Junior Series XCO in 2017 where there were 22 participants in total.

His worst moment was at the 2016 Rio Olympics where he snapped his chain after a few seconds from the starting line.

Lesotho moved one place up to number 26 on the UCI rankings after the Mountain Bike World Championships in Cairns, Australia held from September 5 to 10, 2017, following Makae (under 23) and Monese (elite men’s category) 64th position finish out of 75 riders.

However, Lesotho is currently ranked number 42 in the UCI rankings. Following the announcement that The Sufferfest committed to sponsoring the team again for 2016, Mark West - the team director, offered Monese the team’s first professional contract.

The team pledged to give Monese a monthly stipend of $100 (equivalent to M1 624) so that he can dedicate his time to cycling while still able to support his family. It, therefore, seems ironic that a man earning a meager $100 a month could be riding a $4000 bike – worth more than his four years’ salary.

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But the man earned an expensive bike. He started riding one of the cheapest bikes on the market because that was all he could afford then, but he has managed to make his way up. But his dream would definitely have been impossible without the ACE-The Sufferfest-Lesotho MTB Team.

Since turning professional, Phetetso has taken a string of wins, including a bronze medal at the XC Marathon and appearing eighth at the XC African Continental Championship. “I wish to mentor other riders when I retire from competitive riding,” said the man who is a cycling coaching level, one certificate holder.

Monese is a family man, married to ’Mareabetsoe Monese and the couple is blessed with two little children – an eight-year-old daughter, Reabetsoe, and a four-year-old son, Realeboha.

Although he is currently unemployed, the stipend from his team puts food on his table and a roof over his young family’s heads while he is busy competing against some of the best MTB riders in the world.

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