The Xtreme for Kids Cycle Tour starts annually 11 days before the Cape Town Cycle Tour and runs from Johannesburg to Cape Town with the last day cycling the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
“Put your hands on your head! Put your hands on your shoulders! Put your hands on your knees. That is what it is all about and turn!” Attempting to do the turn, the group of all male cyclists slide around on their cleats much to the delight of the 500 children watching them.
It is the 6th day of the Xtreme for Kids Cycle tour and the cycling team finds them in a small school in rural Aberdeen. They have just completed two gruelling days totalling 515km of cycling, with another long stretch of 235km still ahead. As the group look into the excited faces of the schoolchildren who are in awe of their dance moves, all they can think of is the difference they are making.
The Xtreme for Kids Cycle Tour saw the light when 2013 three business men responded to a challenge by General Arno Lamoer (then SAPS Provincial Commissioner of the Western Cape). He challenged men to stand up against child abuse. The group, under the leadership of extreme athlete, Dirk Lourens, collaborated with hostage survivor, Monique Strydom and her organisation Matla A Bana – A Voice against child abuse. The plan was not only to cycle from Johannesburg to Cape Town via the Karoo and end the tour with participation in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, but also to reach deep into rural communities with a special school program presented at schools.
“The success rate of completion of the this Xtreme tour, is not very high,” explains Dirk Lourens, who rates this as one of the most difficult cycling challenges in South Africa. “This is not about physical endurance only, it is about mental strength. To cycle for such a long period up to 13 hours a day, facing extreme heat and strong winds and still be positive, is not for everyone.” Up to date only 10% of cyclists who joined have managed to complete the whole tour. This year four team cyclists (with the average age of 46 years old) competed the tour.
A very special quality of this tour is the community involvement along the way- from a treat to Karoo Sushi on the top of a mountain to home cooked meals at private homes. For business consultant, Alan Klette, who has done his third tour the impact on the children is first prize, but for him another highlight is the incredible people they meet along the way and the teamwork between the cyclists and backup crew.
“There are many cycle tours similar to ours,” explains organiser Monique Strydom, “but none of them has the impact on local communities like this one has. This tour is not only about extreme cycling, but it is about extreme emotions and extreme impact and lives being changed.” Every year more than 5000 children hear the child protection messages spread by the group and their support team with the special school visits along the route.
The tour has the full support of the South African Police Services who also render their assistance along the way and during the school visits, should a child wish to disclose any crime against them. During the last 6 years of its existence, more than 40 000 children were reached in rural areas where outreaches are seldom seen.
“This cycling tour is a life changing experience,” says Lt Col Andre Van Rooyen, SAPS National Team cyclist from Graaff Reinet. His is echoing the sentiment of many of the 45 plus cyclists who have participated in this tour during the last six years. For most of the cyclists, this tour of 1890 km, starts out as an endurance cycle challenge, but quickly becomes a stark reminder of the dangers children in South Africa face every day.
The funds raised with the tour are still affecting communities and children. Matla A Bana creates Child Friendly Reporting Facilities at police stations and such facilities were created in the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Southern Cape with these funds.
These facilities help thousands of children every year who report crimes against them.
The team (Dirk Lourens, Alan Klette, Lt Col Andre Van Rooyen, Lt Col Mike Henning and junior Marco Calitz) received a hero’s welcome at the welcoming event at Willowbridge on 10 March 2018. To them their passion – cycling – has become a powerful tool to bring about change in the lives of many young children.