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MUZI KING OF THE ROAD

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LOZITHA – MTN Khemani Cycling Club cyclist Muzi Shabangu has won Eswatini’s flagship cycling road race.

The 21-year-old, who is a regular podium finisher, clocked an unmatched 04:53:32 hours to win the 160km National Road Championship race at Lozitha outside Manzini yesterday. He needed to shake off then defending champion Morgan Rudd from the vastly improved 4EVA Cycling Club to win it for the second time in three years. He was a champion in 2017 before surrendering the title to Rudd last year. Rudd reached the winning point about four minutes later to clock 04:57:53 hours. Completing the list of podium finishers was the incredible 18-year-old Sihle Dlamini from Dig Deep.  His finishing time was 04:58:10 hours. Like in the past year, there was a fierce battle for a podium finish, with clubs like Dig Deep, MTN Khemani and 4EVA all coming to the party. The spectators were kept guessing, with the eventful winner surviving a scare after his bicycle developed mechanical faults while the runner-up was caught in a mix-up involving the cyclists along the route.

Perfect

“The route was perfect, but there were a lot of climbs. “The competition was tough and at times I was forced to race with no support from a teammate in the peloton,” he said. Rudd said he tried his best, but was derailed by the minor accident along the route, while Sihle was relieved to celebrate a podium finish in the national championships.  While in the past year the race was staged outside Sikhuphe in the Lubombo Region, the 2019 edition led the daring cyclists to climbs around Lozitha, Langeni and surrounding areas.  They needed to endure seven laps of about 23 kilometres each to complete the 160km course.  The race started at the Lozitha market and led the cyclists towards Elangeni using the old road. They turned back at the last bus stop before connecting the highway. They then headed back to Ludzidzini Traffic Circle via the starting point. They returned to the starting point to complete one loop.  The 04:28:30 hours record by Rudd set in the past year, on the other hand, remained intact.

Winning the shortest event (69km) yesterday was ‘late bloomer’ Caleb Young from 4EVA Club.  He endured the challenging course in 02:26:28 hours. “It was tough, especially the last lap,” he said. There was also a 92km event which was a championship race for women. Claiming gold was the impressive Dinize Wilsch, who clocked 03:34:55 hours. The winners of the championship races (160km and 92km) got floating trophies. They will further get national team jerseys, which they will wear in every road race in Eswatini.

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