Malawi holds higher expectations in professional cycling following its signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Glasgow, Scotland with various stakeholders under Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
This follows the participation of Malawian cyclist Macpherson Mbeya at the UCI World Championship in Glasgow, Scotland where he was accompanied by Cycling Federation of Malawi president, Malombo Kayira — who has indicated that several partnerships were established in August.
Kayira said the meeting highlighted how countries like Malawi could improve in cycling development and promotion of women in the sport, saying: “We want to develop a BMX track in order to develop the sport from the grassroots stage and I am glad that we came across partners such as the Scotland Malawi Partnership who want to help.”
Their trip to Glasgow facilitated by Scotland-Malawi Partnership, a civil society network coordinating that supports and represents people-to-people links between the two nations.
The society then approached Billy Bilsland Cycles based in Glasgow, which already has a strong link with Malawi as it lent out bikes to Malawian athletes to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Its manager, Neil Bilsland supported Mbeya — a developing Malawian professional cyclist who is a clinical officer from Mzimba District — with a loan of three top-of-the-range bikes in his quest to participate UCI Cycling World Championships.
He supported Macpherson with a 51 Cervelo Caledonia with Ultegra; a 51cm Cervelo P3 Di2 and a Genesis Mantle HT and Mbeya was quoted as saying this was the first time in his life that he had seen, let alone used such bikes.
In an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), Kayira hailed Billy Bilsland Cycles for supporting Mbeya with the bikes and spare parts for all his races during the championship, which included a 51 Cervelo P3 Di2 and a Genesis Mantle HT.
“The Scotland Malawi Partnership helped us identify Billy Bilsland since travelling with own bicycles would have been expensive and it was likely that we would not pass the bike test which are conducted before the competition because our bikes are outdated.”
On his part, Mbeya said Malawi has potential to produce competitive cyclists if adequate support and equipment are rendered to the sport.
“I participated in the Gran Fondo road race which was 196 kilometres then the mountain bike cross country marathon (100 kilometres) and the time trial for grand fondo (22.6 kilometres).
“In my first race, I got lost because I didn’t know that the starting and finishing points are located in two different places which is contrary to how we do it in Malawi.”
Mbeya further appealed to Malawi National Council of Sports, government and private companies to consider investing and promoting cycling as done to other sports since it has the potential of boasting tourism.
Kayira further announced that they also have a partnership with the University of Glasgow, who are waiting for Malawi Cycling Federation’s proposals and also that Malawi Scottish Partnership is conducting research and as well as sourcing money to build a cycling track in Blantyre to elevate the sport.
When the UCI Championship was in progress, Think Malawi, a charity in the UK undertook an epic 500-mile (790km) cycling adventure from London to Glasgow — dubbed Pedal with a Purpose to raise about K30 million (£25,000) towards supporting grassroots education initiatives in Malawi.
The team of three are members from Peckham Cycle Club of Steve McInerny, 47 from Herne; Alastair Boon, 26, from Brixton, Alex Bascetta, 29, from Peckham.
The grassroots education initiatives range from making reusable sanitary pads, enabling girls to stay in school, building desks to innovative remote learning projects as well as Ladder to Learning literacy project.
In solidarity, they were seeing off from London’s View Tube Café by Malawi High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency, Dr Thomas Bisika.
The seeds for assisting Malawi were sown after the founder and trustee, McInerny crossed through Malawi on his epic ride from Cairo to Cape Town in 2004-5 along with a team of hardy riders.
McInerny and the others stopped in Blantyre where McInerny’s mother, Kate Hauxwell was a teacher at St Andrews International High School and during the short stopover, McInerny identified a gap in girl child’s literacy — thus Think Malawi was born which was then formally registered it as a charity in UK.
Meanwhile, this was the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships that attracted more than 2,600 athletes and according to UCI’s website, the championships are set to be held every four years in the year preceding the Olympic Games.
They will be bringing together various disciplines of cycling for them to be held as part of one event, including the UCI Road World Championships, UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Malawi did not qualify for championship but UCI extended an invitation as the country has not been participating in continental games recently.
– Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Nyasa Times