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05 May, 2016

Seeing is Believing

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In 2015, Kenyan rider Douglas Sidialo became the first blind rider to complete the nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c. Even so, this year, he returned with his tandem partner John Mwangi to deal with unfinished business.

You see, there were emotional scenes on the second-last day at that 2015 race when the two riders took a tumble in the first 10km of the 99km stage, with John breaking his collar bone. After pushing on for some time, he eventually had to stop riding, but luckily help was at hand in the form of Darryl Gove, who got off his own bike and stepped in to take John’s place on the tandem. So Douglas and Darryl made it over the finish line, the last riders to do so on the day, with most of the race participants waiting to see their dramatic finish.

There were tears, cheers, hugs and high fives, with Douglas and Darryl embodying the spirit of an event that is known to be tough on the body, but good for the soul, and the following day, the ninth stage of the 900km event, John was back on the bike and the Kenyan team was able to complete the journey across South Africa. However, the crash left Douglas, who was blinded in the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi, with some unfinished business – he needed to cross the finish line of all nine days with his partner John!

Let’s Try That Again

Douglas is an accomplished adventurer who has climbed Kilimanjaro, as well as completed a 12,000km cycle from Cairo to Cape Town, and competed in many Kenyan stage races. Now he is coming back to South Africa for a second attempt at the Old Mutual joBerg2c. “This is an extraordinary event with wonderful camaraderie, friendship and an adventure that stimulates body, mind and soul,” says Douglas. “I just had to come back to complete joBerg2c for the second year, but also to close out the unfinished business of riding for nine consecutive days with John.”

The joBerg2c organisers, sponsor Old Mutual and various South African supporters have all chipped in to make Douglas and John’s ambition a reality, by offering entries, upgrading race village sleeping arrangements or assisting with travel from Kenya, and the pair has also done the hard yards in training for their second assault on the race. “Training has involved three days in the gym every week, three days off-road or road bike training every week, and I have also done two major MTB stage races in Kenya – the Rift Valley Odyssey, a 500km, five-day race in the Great Rift Valley, and the Mount Kenya 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge, a race that starts at 10,000ft above sea level and makes its way to 4000ft,” says Douglas.

He has long been a cycling enthusiast, growing up in a village in Kenya where he used a single gear bike to get to the market and back. He says he was competitive even at a young age, chasing friends in front of him to make sure he ‘won.’ However, it was only after losing his sight in the terrorist attack that he became involved in longer and more motivational cycling events.

Unbreakable Spirit

“After losing my sight I went to the Virginia Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind and Vision Impaired in America. While there I received an invitation from World Team Sports to do a bike ride in honour of the people who lost their lives in the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks. We cycled from Ground Zero in New York to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, in a ride called Face of America. From that day, I continued pursuing my passion in adventure cycling.”

Now, just days away from his second Old Mutual joBerg2c, Douglas says he has three goals for his ride. “I want to get over the line every day with John, but what I really want to do is to help unleash the potential of the human spirit – terrorists took my sight, but they have not been able to dim my spirit. I am also riding to remember and honour the lives lost in recent terror attacks around the world.”

Sean Falconer

Sean Falconer

Editor |

Sean is Editor of Modern Athlete Magazine and is based in Stellenbosch. He manages the Maties Women's Soccer Team, runs himself and does regular race commentary on weekends. The Busy Body.