The Pedal Project is an official Absa Cape Epic charity and a community-based mental health support programme, which utilises mountain biking as a vehicle for empowering children from historically disadvantaged communities. At the 2024 Untamed African Mountain Bike Race the programme will be rewarding a group of UCI Women’s teams as they #PedalForGood. The unofficial leaders’ jersey for the ‘Working Heroines’ teams – all of whom are women who hold down full-time jobs, balance family commitments and healthy social lives alongside their racing aspirations – provides these women with a target to race for.

Photos by @maxsulliphoto

There is also a natural link between the women contesting for the PedalForGood jersey and the Pedal Project. Each of the individuals racing relies on riding her bike for her own mental health and knows that exercise has a value beyond physical fitness. Through their participation and the good-natured competition inspired by the unofficial race-within-the-race the Pedal Project hopes to raise awareness of- and funds for their charitable work.

Juanita Mackenzie

Juanita Mackenzie leading the working heroines charge at the Tankwa Trek. Photo by Max Sullivan.

Every weekday 120 children from Maccassar, Strand, and soon Jamestown, outside of Stellenbosch, are taken to ride mountain bikes on the Wine Lands Trail network by the Pedal Project. Along with getting exercise and burning off some of the insatiable energy of youth the children receive guidance from mentors and are helped to build the tools to overcome the challenges they will face in life. Mountain bikers and fans of the Absa Cape Epic can support the project’s charitable efforts here and find out more by visiting

Pedal Project

The kids the women are racing to raise awareness and funds for. And to inspire with their grit and determination. Photo by the Pedal Project.

Introducing the PedalForGood Contenders:

Team Name Rider Name Epic’s Completed & Best Result Instagram Handle
Cape Classic 380 Tarryn Povey 3 & 9th @tarryn.p
Kylie Hanekom 1 & 9th @kyliehanekom
Elements Juanita Mackenzie 1 & 13th @juanitarosemackenzie
Mandi Augustyn 1 & 2nd (Mixed) @mandi_augustyn
Fortress Investments Ila Stow 2 & 10th (Mixed) @ilastow
Laura Stark 2 & 1st (Mixed) N/A
SHEOVITA Jessica Wilkinson 0 & N/A @jessleighwilkinson
Rebecca van Huyssteen 0 & N/A @becksabby
Team Cruze Control Nicola Freitas 1 & 11th @nixfreitas
Robyn Williams 1 & 12th @robynwijnbeek
SheUntamed 22 Ricci Lee Brookstone 1 & 2nd (Amateurs) @riccileebrookstone
Sanchia Malan 1 & 17th (Mixed) @sanchia_malan
Jessica Wilkinson

Jessica Wilkinson is one of the newer members of the group, having raced the 2023 Cape Pioneer Trek alongside many of the women but in the solo rather than the teams category. Photo by Max Sullivan.

Pedal Project: What does racing your bike mean to you?

Kylie Hanekom: Cycling has been my anchor for the last ten years. It’s my happy place. Racing my bike is just an expression of that. I feel incredibly privileged to be strong and healthy enough, and in a position to pursue what brings me peace the way I do. I know it won’t last forever.  I have to pinch myself sometimes to check if it’s real that I get to do what I love, and see the places I do on a bike!

Robyn Williams: Bike racing is the way I keep myself challenged and engaged. I am happiest when I am pushing myself to my limits – working as hard as I can, training as hard as I can, living as hard as I can. Without some kind of challenge, I get incredibly bored, incredibly quickly, but with bike racing there is always a new goal, a new race, a new technical feature to conquer. I love it!

Juanita Mackenzie: Racing my bike makes me feel alive. I love everything about it. The challenge, the chance to upskill and learn, to overcome. I love the feeling of the wind in my hair, the sound the tyres make as they roll, the exhilaration that feel when I bomb down a hill and the accomplishment I feel when I am able to be better than the day before – even if just by a small margin. It’s my therapy. It makes my heart happy. I particularly love racing as a team. There is something beautiful in good team work. To be able to communicate with each other with a grin, a grimace or just a look. Or to not have to communicate at all because you’re in sync. You already know what your partner is going to do before she does it and it makes you smile inside in anticipation. Someone to carry you when you can’t anymore and to inspire you to dig deeper than you ever would on your own. Uplifting each other under every circumstance on and off the bike. Poetry in motion.

Juanita Mackenzie

Juanita Mackenzie. Photo by Max Sullivan.

Nicola Freitas: There are times when life gets really busy, and it’s hard to make time for yourself, or the things that you love. Nevermind find the energy for it. That’s why I love the goal of a race on my calendar. It’s something I’m excited for because of the vibe, the time spent connecting with like-minded people. But I need the structure it adds to my everyday life. Having a goal gets me out the door after a long work day when I really just want to lie with my feet up on the couch. And every time I push past that mental barrier it is so worth it. I feel reinvigorated after a ride. Getting outside, looking at the beauty of our surroundings, reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to move my body and live in the beautiful country fills my cup and restores balance.

Jessica Wilkinson: Racing my bike is the most fun for me, I absolutely love it. I thrive in the suffering, challenges and all the adventure that comes with it. The unpredictable nature of each race is exciting and rewarding – no two days are alike. There’s something about pushing my limits and tackling a new challenge that resonates with me – it allows me the opportunity to grow and discover more about myself.

Mandi Augustyn: Riding for hours at a time is where I got my best business ideas. It lets me think without knowing I’m kakking off, my staff even ask me “Mandi did you go ride for hours again?” when I get to the office on a Monday when I inform them about new exciting ideas.

Ila Stow: It’s about meeting new people, experiencing new places and trails and the freedom riding a bike brings. There is also an element of pushing boundaries and yourself to see what you can achieve.

Sanchia Malan: Racing is a personal journey that keeps me motivated, and encourages me to challenge my limitations on a physical and mental level.

Ricci Lee Brookstone: Racing and riding my bike forms a really big part of my life. I love challenging my limits whilst having fun doing it. Mountain biking helps me take the seriousness out of life by embracing my playful and competitive nature. I love that it keeps me fit and healthy but it definitely helps to have a races on the schedule to keep me accountable on the days when I don’t feel like training. Riding has brought like-minded people into my life that have formed into the best friendships.

Ila Stow

Over the last few years Ila Stow has ridden a Bulls media E-Bike during the Absa Cape Epic. The 2024 race will be her third start as a racer. Photo by Max Sullivan.

PP: What inspired you to enter the Cape Epic in the UCI elite field rather than in the Amateur Women’s or age-group women’s competition?

KH: In all honesty, the cheaper entry is a huge motivating factor, and has allowed us to find sponsors to fund our efforts. But I’m also passionate about growing women’s cycling and raising the standard that we race at. I absolutely adore the hustle of a close race, and being in the middle of a bunch fighting for position. I love the game of chess that is understanding the variables at play, such as understanding the terrain, managing energy reserves, equipment and partner dynamics. Being able to participate in the Elite field is a privilege I never dreamed I’d have when I first started cycling. In reality it means finishing hours behind the leaders, but every year our cohort of non-professional riders grows bigger, and our performance improves. I believe growth comes from aiming high and benchmarking against the best.

RW: The cheap entry! Totally! It’s the only way I am able to race these crazy races and wow, what amazing opportunities I’ve been afforded as a result. It all started with Dryland Event Management’s drive to get more female racing teams on to the start line and we heard that they were offering a very nice discount to teams who raced in the UCI ladies racing category. So, in 2022, Ila Stow and I purchased our racing licenses and we haven’t looked back. Since getting UCI points at Cape Pioneer Trek that year we’ve been able to qualify for a whole host of cheap entries at other races and do events we could not have dreamed of doing otherwise.

Tarryn Povey

Tarryn Povey. Photo by Max Sullivan.

JM: Financially it makes sense for us. I would never be able to afford it otherwise.

NF: Are you saying I can’t give Candice Lill a run for her Money?? Kidding! After racing together previously in the elite field we found we had a competitive group of working women who were quite well matched and we had some really close racing. During the Winter stage races when most of our local pros are racing overseas the working girls are actually podium contenders locally. So, it was really exciting to battle it out for that podium spot.

Then when Epic opened up its incredible elite entry offer, we had already crossed that barrier into the elite ranks, had the UCI points to qualify and a group of girls to actually make it a race. So, of course we all seized the opportunity.

JW: Taking on a new challenge – the excitement of racing with the talented UCI Women is undeniable. Discovering my competitive side and passion for sports later in life has been a rewarding journey and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

MA: I come from a top level in a different sport and to start a new discipline so late in life and especially starting from scratch is just a new challenge for me in life. It makes it exciting getting closer and closer to women who do this for a living. They motivate us and we motivate the other ladies that compete in the A, B,C,D, E bunches.

IS: The cheaper entry makes the barrier to entry much lower and realistic. There is also more coverage from a sponsorship point.

SM: I was asked to race the Absa Cape Epic with Ricci-Lee Brookstone, for the Absa She Untamed Women’s group.  It was a last minute decision as Ricci’s partner had to withdraw. We both have UCI licences, so we decided to enter the UCI category. I have been racing in the Elite category since last year, and it is quite competitive, but it is also a fun category that contains so many other awesome women.

RLB: My new Epic partner races Elite and when she suggested we do so, I couldn’t turn down the challenge. I’m looking forward to being surrounded by powerful women who can show me the ropes. I would also love to start collecting UCI points to hopefully qualify for next year’s Epic pro deals.

Mandi Augustyn

Mandi Augustyn missed the 2023 Absa Cape Epic due to injury. Photo by Max Sullivan.

PP: What would be a good result for yourself and your team at the 2024 Cape Epic, and why?

KH: Ideally a top ten, but I am keenly aware that the field has grown significantly this year, and the bar has been raised with it.  We’ll only know once we’re in it, whether we’re able to level up and fight it out with the rest of the field.

RW: Hmmmm, tough one not knowing exactly what the field is looking like, but we’ve seen amazing growth in the competitiveness of the women’s field so I think a top 15 would be a good goal.

JM: Our goal is to get that coveted PedalForGood leaders’ jersey as many times as possible!

NF: I think my primary goal is to always have fun, first. Even when we’re suffering, and the conditions test us, or we have a mechanical, I want to still be able to crack a smile and feel stoked to be there. Second goal would be to give each day my all and race – to never mentally give up and check out. To keep racing even when it may feel that things haven’t gone our way and we are not really in the “race”. And to be a good partner within that race. In terms of results, a Top 5 in the African Jersey competition would be…. Epic.


Rebecca van Huyssteen (left) and Jessica Wilkinson (right). Photo by Max Sullivan.

JW: I am looking forward to seeing how our race unfolds, this will be our first Absa Cape Epic and a good result for me would be to race competitively as best as we can. Most importantly to have fun whether we are suffering or flowing down some Epic single track, making sure we soak up every moment with gratitude.

MA: Finish in one piece! I have had a lot of bad luck over the last two years and it would be great to finish strong with my partner. Obviously winning the PadalForGood jersey would be great. Who doesn’t want to win that? It’s such a great goal for us, something realistic to work towards.

IS: The ladies field this year looks stronger than ever. A top 10 would be great.

SM: It may be a boring answer, but ultimately the best result for us would be to have fun, gain experience and grow from this event.

RLB: Sanchia and I are a very new partnership, having only just teamed up. A great result for me would be that we form a good partnership that brings out the best in each other. Getting to the finish line having given our all will be a good result.

Kylie Hanekom

Kylie Hanekom. Photo by Max Sullivan.

PP: What are you hoping to take from the race personally, in terms of growth as a rider/person and in terms of experiences you’ll treasure forever?

KH: Cycling has taught me the importance of never giving up. It’s taught me that it is possible to fall, and fail, and not be the best at something, but that if you get up and keep fighting, and keep trying, and work at your weaknesses, often you can really surprise yourself. Growth, opportunity and improvement sneak up when you least expect it, and situations change so fast in a race environment. If you don’t show up, or you don’t give it your best shot you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to succeed. I think cycling has, and continues to teach me that I’m stronger than I think, and that my mind is my greatest asset (and also liability) when it comes to perseverance and achieving goals, and these lessons apply to ‘real’ life as well.

RW: All I want to do at any event is to walk away and know that I gave my best. With partner racing this doesn’t always mean being able to give of your physical best. If your partner is having a tough day, it may mean trying to be the best partner you can be under difficult circumstances. But knowing that I did my best under all circumstances is what I aspire to.

JM: This Epic is going to be a special one for many reasons. Mandi and I have walked a road and she has had some very nasty accidents, one being near fatal which prevented us from doing Epic together last year. So, this is a long time coming for us. It’s also a last hoorah as Mandi will be taking a break for a bit after April to concentrate on having a family. So, we need to make the most of it while we can. It’s going to be a particularly challenging Epic and I am excited to be taking it on with her. We plan on making the most of every moment.

Nicola Freitas

A very muddy Nicola Freitas at the 2022 Trans Baviaans. Photo by Reblex.

NF: It’s the Cape Epic, the tour de france of mountain biking. I want to stay present and appreciate the bigger picture of this massive race we get to be a part of, and not get torn up about the details. I want to face the challenges and accomplishments with grace. In a race, like in life, when there’s a bump in the road it’s important to be able to pivot, make a plan or change the goal and keep moving forward. And when things go well, it’s equally important to be grateful to all the external factors that went into that accomplishment. I want to take the hard things that build character and apply them as life skills to help me navigate the world with a little bit more grit, patience, and grace.

JW: Leaving the Cape Epic, my simple goal is to have had a good time with Becks while racing to the best of our ability as a team. Being a reliable partner means a lot to me, and I’m just grateful for the journey we’ve had leading up to the Cape Epic. It’s been a humble adventure of hard work, and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing the outcomes of our efforts in three weeks.

IS: The Epic is named the Untamed race for a reason. It is hard and long and anything can happen. As I have a very strong partner, for me it’s learning to manage and pace myself for 8 days. You know it’s going to be a tough race but I am hoping to find sync and flow with my partner. It will be the first-time riding and racing together so lots of unknowns, but with combined experience I know it will be a good one. I am looking forward to learning from my partner as she has raced at a very competitive level, while managing a family and career. I think we are also one of the only ladies to both be mothers.

SM: Each race teaches you something about racing and yourself, the Epic is no different. Overcoming obstacles or challenging scenarios is what makes the best memories. I hope that Epic will give me the opportunity to build friendships, learn more about myself and my fellow elite racing ladies.

RLB: There is no feeling like pushing your limits, not only physically but mentally as well. Last year’s Epic taught me that no matter how hard things are, they can always get harder but you also don’t realise how strong you are and how much you can endure until pushing through is the only option you have.  I can’t wait for the challenges that this year brings and the strength, confidence and self-worth that develops from it.

Robyn Williams

Robyn Williams is taking on her second Absa Cape Epic, having made her debut in the race in 2023. Photo Supplied.

PP: Tell us about the inspiration you draw from this group of women, how it keeps you training and striving to be better. I know most of you have just finished Tankwa, so being able to race each other there, as well as at Pioneer and W2W also comes into it.

KH: I’m endlessly impressed by the fighting spirit of the women around me. They’re role models in terms of juggling, balancing and chasing goals. When I don’t want to get out of bed to train, it helps to remember that we’re all in the same boat, and I don’t have an excuse. It makes me so happy to line up with them, be chased and chase on the bike, and catch up afterwards for a post-race debrief.

RW: We are all CRAZY competitive when we are racing against each other, but everyone is super chilled as soon as each stage is over and then it’s hugs and asking each other how their day went. I love both aspects – the race as hard as you can and then the “let’s be mates”. It’s really cool that there is a whole little tribe of us who aren’t professional MTBers, but are there at the races giving it their absolute all. We are all going through the same challenges to get to the start line – trying to find some financial help to fund this expensive sport, waking up early every morning before work to get our training in, juggling careers, family, friends and training and despite all the challenges we still eagerly sign up for it. It’s also pretty cool that we are all quite closely matched in terms of ability. It makes the racing super tight and a lot of fun.

JM: Every woman in this group inspires me in different ways. They all have grit and determination and a never give up attitude. That’s a given and always admirable. But it’s a kindness shown when another is flailing. A word of encouragement when you have nothing left in the tank and giving credit where credit is due, even when it’s hard. Something I really love about this group of women is the sportsmanship. We all want to win, no one lines up to lose and we love battling it out. Racing is savage, and it’s wonderful to be able to push each other to the limit where it’s inevitable someone is going to break. And then hug them afterwards with genuine warmth and happiness for each other’s success that day and sympathy for the losers’ disappointing day out. It’s recognition that winning looks different each day. And that by uplifting others we all rise together. May the best team on the day win and may we all have an absolute jol battling it out.

Sanchia Malan

Sanchia Malan awaiting the starters orders at the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen.

NF:  It’s extremely special to be in a circle of women that are so accomplished. These women are smart, they are so funny, and they each have so much grit.  I feel so lucky to look to my left and right on the start line and feel inspired by everyone on the start line. Inspired by the lives they lead and how they are navigating their own journey. Not just how they ride their bike.

Hower, I do think that having each other to race against has elevated the level within our group. Everyone is getting faster and that’s fantastic for women’s mountain biking. I also think a fantastic side effect of our working women’s race is that new women keep joining! We’ve started a club and everyone’s invited!

JW: It feels very special and exciting to be racing alongside these remarkable women. They are all incredibly talented, strong, and resilient, which truly inspires me. Most of all I am inspired by each woman’s unique story. Behind every one of them lies a journey that has led them to where they are today. Engaging in conversations and getting to know them on a personal level is what inspires me to keep challenging myself.

IS: It’s really inspiring seeing more ladies getting involved in mountain biking. It is not an easy sport to be involved in, there and many barriers to entry and requires fitness, skill and commitment. Something I am very proud of is the culture within the ladies’ cycling community. We are all friends and everyone is very supportive and encouraging of each other. Even the pro ladies at the top are always welcoming and friendly. I think we are all competitive but mostly with ourselves and want to be the best riders we can be, whilst managing and balancing other aspects of life.

SM: I am very fortunate to be able to ride my bike and work, and it is amazing to see that other women are also just as passionate about the sport as I am.  It is not always easy to compete at a high level, as well as balance other priorities in life.  Being surrounded by other women with the same challenges is comforting and inspiring.  Pedal Project has made it possible for us to receive a bit of recognition for the sacrifices which means a great deal.

RLB: Racing with such a strong group of women really helps and inspires me to push myself harder than I think I can and it really encourages me to get the most out of myself.

Ricci Lee Brookstone

Ricci Lee Brookstone in action.

PedalForGood Jersey Prizes

To further celebrate the women taking part in this unofficial competition the Pedal Project has obtained a number of prizes. These include wine, from farms the 2024 route crosses, and flowers for each stage’s winners and a specially designed PedalForGood Vye leader’s jersey.

The new Glacier Waterberg Traverse three-day stage race will feature both short, fun, routes and longer, tougher, routes for the racers. Photo by Sage Lee Voges for ZCMC Media.

Dryland Event Management, who invertedly established the ‘working heroines’ group are also contributing significant prizes. “When we offered discounted entries to the UCI Women’s category at the 2022 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen, we hoped to grow the strength and depth of the women’s race. The success of this has blown us away and we had the biggest ever UCI Women’s field at the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, this year; which has built into the biggest women’s field at the Absa Cape Epic. To show our appreciation for these amazing women, who all juggle careers and family commitments alongside their training and racing, Dryland are rewarding the podium finishers in the PedalForGood competition with race entries,” Suné van Wyk, Dryland Marketing Manager said. “Each of the top three teams will receive two solo entries to the new Glacier Waterberg Traverse race as well as two solo entries to either the 36ONE MTB Challenge or the 36ONE Half, which forms part of the 2024 Cannondale Western Cape Gravel Series. We hope this serves not only as motivation but also helps keep the friendly competition between these remarkable women going beyond team stage racing.”