Despite a difficult year in which very little racing occurred due to government reaction to Covid-19, South African women’s mountain bike racing team, Galileo Risk Infiniti, has increased its investment for 2021, with some significant changes.
Having comprised two riders for the past two years, Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph, the team will change substantially for the new year, with Hill departing and Sam Sanders and Kim le Court being added to the roster.
Hill has been offered an opportunity to join the Liv international programme and will be based in the USA. Ralph will continue to help build the team’s legacy in supporting Sanders, the accomplished multiple national champion, and Le Court, the ambitious newcomer.
“We have enjoyed having Sarah on the team and appreciate her hard work and commitment. We wish her all the very best as she leaves to pursue an international racing programme,” said Hayden Simpson, Executive Director Galileo Risk Insurance Solutions.
“We are excited to add two new riders to our team. Kim is quite new to mountain bike racing but not new to bicycle racing, with an impressive road racing resume. In just a few mountain bike races recently, she has shown great potential and we look forward to helping her mature into a formidable mountain bike racer.
Sam Sanders, the 2019 South African marathon champion, will add substantial depth to the team.
“Sam’s pedigree is well-known and her presence adds significant depth to our team for 2021. She’s overcome injury this year and we are keen to see her return to her best with our support,” added Simpson.
Another addition to the team is new sponsor, SPOT Africa, a global satellite tracking and communications solution. SPOT Africa already has a strong association with mountain biking, having been a partner to the Absa Cape Epic since 2018. This will see a team name adjustment to become Galileo Infiniti SPOT.
Kim Le Court brings youthful ambition to the team as she switches her primary racing focus from road to mountain biking.
Le Court is a Mauritian national, but lives and races predominantly in South Africa. Her most well-known win is the 2018 Cape Town Cycle Tour, but she is also the 2019 Mauritian road race champion and the 2019 African Games MTB Marathon champion.
“I started out as a mountain biker, doing XCO racing as a Junior, so this isn’t entirely new to me. After the 2020 Cape Town Cycle Tour in March, I flew to Mauritius to compete in the African Champs and my national champs. But then the lockdown began and neither event happened. I ended up being there for five months. I spent a lot of time training on Zwift and got really strong,” explained Le Court.
“When I got back to South Africa (my boyfriend and I live in Pretoria), only mountain bike racing was happening, so I decided to enter some of the Nissan Trailseeker events, which I really enjoyed and did quite well in. That’s when I decided to change my focus to mountain bike racing.”
For Le Court, who also finished third at the 2020 KAP sani2c, partnered with Francis Janse van Rensburg, her primary goals in 2021 include learning more and competing at the 2021 Olympic Games.
“I plan to gain as much mountain bike racing experience as I can. I couldn’t ask for better mentors than Theresa and Sam. I’d like achieve podiums at all the stage races I do. I also want to race XCO again and hopefully qualify to represent Mauritius at the Tokyo Olympics,” said Le Court.
For Sanders, the 2019 South African Marathon Champion and 2013 National XCO Champion, the addition to the team comes at the end of her most difficult year.
“I had a nerve impingement in my lower back. Unfortunately, it took a while to get this diagnosis because of Covid-19 as it was deemed non-essential treatment. The impingement was affecting the functioning of my glute and I ended up with complete dysfunction of the anterior and posterior facial slings. This has required much rehab and patience to overcome,” explained Sanders.
“I am just so excited and grateful to have this opportunity with Galileo Infiniti SPOT to race again. I have missed racing dearly. I am looking forward to everything! It’s a new year and a fresh start. It’s also great to be teaming up with the ever-consistent Theresa and helping Kim grow through her mountain biking transition,” added Sanders.
Galileo Risk has supported women’s mountain bike racing for the past five years. For the first two years, it was only Ralph in the team’s kit, with Hill joining for the last three years, along with the addition of sponsors Infiniti, Liqui Molly and Liv.
“I’m thrilled to have Sam on board. She is such a strong, skilled rider and has unfortunately had injury to deal with for most of the past year. But her recovery has been steady and she really wants to race in 2021,” said Ralph.
“And I’m very happy have to have Kim on the team. I love her professionalism and ambition. Like I did with Sarah, I look forward to teaching Kim some of the mountain biking ropes and watching her grow.”
“Five years ago, when Galileo Risk made the decision to get into the sport, we had a limited budget and no additional sponsors to support a full racing team. With this in mind, we made the call to focus our investment on the ladies’ category of MTB racing. At the time, the ladies’ fields were far smaller than they are today and we wanted to promote the female aspect of competitive riding," explained Simpson.
“Over the last five years there has been a significant increase in the number of ladies participating in both one-day and multi-stage racing. We are proud to have been part of this growth trend in the sport and with the addition of a raft of new sponsors who have joined us over the years, we felt that 2021 is a good year to build on to the base we have already created. I would like to thank Infiniti Insurance, Liv, Liqui Molly, Cycloworx, Power Bar and now SPOT for their incredible and invaluable support, without which, this would certainly not be possible,” added Simpson.
Liv will continue to supply the team’s bikes for 2021 and Liqui Molly has extended its support of the team for the new year.
The Galileo Infiniti SPOT team will compete at the following high-profile mountain bike races in 2021: Absa Cape Epic, Momentum Tankwa Trek, KAP sani2c, FNB Wines2Whales, Transbaviaans and the King Price Trailseeker Series. The team will also compete in selected road races.
For more information on Galileo Risk, one of South Africa’s largest independent insurance brokerages, visit: https://www.galileorisk.co.za