/ master /
acquire complete knowledge or skill in a subject, technique, or art.
True stories of inspiration are all around us. Some are more relatable than others, but each one is special in its own right, and in some way deserves to be shared with the world. Having overcome many obstacles throughout his life, Sipho Madolo is certainly at the centre of one such story of inspiration. With the invaluable help and guidance of Songo.info and further positive influences by big names like Christoph Sauser, Sipho has in many ways mastered the art of marathon racing. Seven Absa Cape Epic’s, Marathon World Championships in PMB, XCO World Championships in Nova Mesto & Andorra and many many more marathon events on local soil, is an impressive resume for any 26 year old. Scroll down to see what happens behind the scenes, and learn more about the kind-hearted success story that is Sipho Madolo.
Who is Sipho Madolo?
I am Sipho Madolo, 26 years old. I'm a professional mountain bike racer and have a full time job at songo.info, working as a sport manager.
You are a great example of the success and impact that the Songo institution has had on lives in Kayamandi. Tell us more about how they shaped and influenced your life and decisions up to this point?
It's really difficult to capture in words, they have done a lot for me from day one to put me in the right direction, especially Songo and Christoph. Having these two legends as mentors from a very young age right before my life got corrupted, made my life more purposeful. Am not really sure if they knew what they wanted to achieve but I'm really happy with the outcome - I just couldn't have asked for anything better. Obviously I worked my ass off for everything, but having that little push to help with making the right decisions and putting the most important things in life first, like education and giving 100% effort in everything made a huge difference in shaping my life for the better.
Talk us through some of your training plan & schedule for the year, and how you get to peak condition when it counts.
I put in so many hours over December and beginning of January. Something between 20-30hours a week and then have easy weeks in between. Then before the season starts I do less hours but very high intensity and do races like Tankwa Trek to see the form and how the body responds or how much I need to train before the real racing starts. And I prefer to train around Stellenbosch as I've got so many choices!
Training and preparing for the marathon racing season requires your bike(s) to be in perfect mechanical condition. Do you sometimes ’service’ or work on your own bike to keep it running smoothly, or do you have a fulltime mechanic that takes care of things.
Yes for sure that's a very important part of riding. I do small thing like servicing the headset and checking the gears etc. but I take my bikes to the Specialized Stellenbosch store to get some serious attention and that takes away the pressure especially if you trust people that works on your bike like the guys in the shop.
Tell us more about the role that Christoph Sauser has played in assisting and shaping your career as marathon racer.
Most people only look at the racing side but Christoph played a big role in my life generally. We trained together for years and raced together few times and I've learned so much from him: training, racing, what to eat, self-discipline and how to race under pressure at your best. And definitely how to control my anger, to talk with people and make time for everyone. This guy is one person I sometimes feel like I owe him something that's bigger than life.
How do you balance all the aspects of your busy life, like your fulltime job, training and family.
I've got my sisters, brothers and mom. It's really difficult but lately my family became my first priority and that's what I live for at the moment, so I try to make time for them no matter how hard it is. When you love people that you are so close to, it's easy to do well and always have something to look forward to when coming home from those hard training days and hard racing, especially when things doesn't really go my way.
What would you say is your greatest achievement in the world of professional mountain biking?
I've achieved a lot in such a short time but the greatest one was doing my first UCI MTB WC in Switzerland and Cape Epic with Sauser. Growing up in the sport, those two things were the things I always wanted to do.
A big part of your training revolves around road cycling, and not just mountain biking. Talk us through the that balance of hours in the saddle on the road vs more technical riding offroad.
Training with Sauser the past few years made me realize how important it easy to do my training on the road and how I can mix it up to not get bored. The balance between road and MTB also goes with your strength as a rider. I do 85% of my training on the road bike and the other 15% on my mountain bike just for fun and to keep me motivated. I also really enjoy the technical riding, especially on my easy week. But almost all my intervals are done on the road bike and maybe once a week on my MTB just to not forget the position and the handling when it counts most.
Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
I like to make people feel so special around me, whether you young or old. I will never argue with you about something even if I know I am 100% right on my opinion but I would apologize to you just avoid aggression.
How do you relax and get away from it all during your non-training days?
I like watching sport shows, movies and reading magazines with my songo kids. Cleaning my water bottles and bikes and obviously visit my family.
What’s your favourite trail(s) to ride in South Africa?
Out of million trails around the country, G-spot is my most favorite trail and I never tired of going there. Other trails that I like are Jonkershoek and Tokai forest.
Tell us more about the role your high school played in your life, and the importance of Makupula Seconday School in Kayamandi.
The school played the most important role in my life. I remember when I started at the school I couldn't speak a word of English but they did what they could to make sure that I can communicate with people around the world. Especially the Principal for allowing me to take risks and let me go and do some races during the school hours and giving me all the support during my high school years. I still visit the school even today and still have a good friendship with some of the teachers and that makes me appreciate the school even more every day.
Your involvement with Songo.info still carries on today. What is your role with the institution and the children that go there.
Yes I will be always involved at Songo - for me that's more than just a job. It's more like home and that's why I get a bit emotional when things doesn't go our way. I work as a Sport Manager, I lead all the sports activities, coaching the kids and making sure that there's a balance between sport, education and life skills..
What advice would you give the 10 year old version of yourself?
It's definitely to work hard for everything in life and don't rely too much on other people otherwise they will let you down. And do what makes you feel uncomfortable, that's how we grow.
You are one of a few ‘unofficial tour guides’ for Kayamandi, and regularly take visitors on a walkabout through your home town. How did this come about and why are you so passionate about this?
This one is really interesting. Most people that visit us are from the different countries and for them it's so special to see what we do. But for me it's so special to show them the background of the kids to understand the challenges that the kids and community are facing. Most importantly, for them to see and understand our culture as the cultural diversity makes South Africa one of the most special countries around the world.
What does 2018 have in store for you.
Absa Cape Epic is my main goal for the year, and then some more marathon racing throughout the year.