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Back 6.20.2013

MTN-Qhubeka’s Songezo Jim makes history, pedals on

Songezo Jim of Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung made cycling history this spring when he became the first black South African rider to compete in a UCI WorldTour event, Milan-San Remo (won by teammate Gerald Ciolek). His place in the European pro peloton is especially inspiring considering that Songezo did not learn to ride a bike until he was 14 years old.

He now hopes to inspire young African cyclists, just as he was inspired when the Cape Argus passed his house when he was growing up. The 22-year-old Songezo and his entire team work to promote Qhubeka, a South African non-profit organization that provides bicycles to rural children in return for work done to improve their communities. Qhubeka is a beneficiary of World Bicycle Relief.

Zipp recently caught up with Songezo:

Zipp: This has been a historic season for African road cycling, for you and for Team MTN-Qhubeka. What has been your highlight so far?
Songezo: This year has been a very big step for me and Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.  My highlight this year was to start a WorldTour race, Milan-San Remo, and coming fourth on GC in the Tour of Gabon. 

Zipp: You did not learn how to ride a bike until you were 14. What was it that attracted you to cycling?
Songezo: To be honest back then I knew nothing about cycling.  When I started, it was just to learn how to ride a bike and enjoy it.

Zipp: You made history by being the first black South African to compete in a WorldTour event. What lessons do you try to impart to young cyclists back home?
Songezo: To the young cyclists back home, all I can say is to believe in yourself. And nothing comes easy in life without hard work being done. 

Zipp: What has been the biggest challenge for you racing in Europe, especially in huge events like Milan-San Remo?
Songezo: The biggest challenge I had to face in Milan-San Remo was the cold. I have never been that cold in my life. 

Zipp: What is your favorite model of Zipp wheel and why?
Songezo: Zipp wheels are the best wheels you could ever find anywhere in the world.  They are very strong, light and respond really well. I like all of them, but I would say 404 Firecrest wheels. I use them mostly and they are really nice wheels. 

Zipp: What is it you like best about your SRAM RED groupset?
Songezo: SRAM RED groupset is a really nice groupset. It responds well and it's really smooth.  For us we have a perfect combination SRAM Red, Zipp wheels and of course the best bikes Trek Bikes.

Zipp: How do you see your role as a pro bike race as complimenting the promotion and distributions of Buffalo Bikes from Qhubeka? Do you get the chance to see these bikes given to children and put into good use?
Songezo: I have been given many chances to go to the Qhubeka bike handovers and it's an unbelievable experience. Those people love the Buffalo Bikes they receive because it makes such a difference in their lives. 

Zipp: What is your ultimate goal in bike racing?
Songezo: My goal is to learn as much as I can so I can race and train better and become a better ride and a better person. 

Follow @SongezoJim on Twitter

More about Team MTN-Qhubeka