Johannesburg – Born in the rural area of Chiredzi in Zimbabwe to a poor family that would later lose its primary breadwinner, cyclist and bicycle mechanic Pressmore Musundi (28) has never had it easy.
His story is one of determination, gusto and, just as his name suggests, pressing more to achieve his dreams. More importantly, his story is about the ever-growing bond with his best friend, the bicycle, in all the various guises that he has experienced riding it.
The relationship between Musundi and cycling began when he was still in primary school in Zimbabwe, where he cycled to and from school.
In 2004, when the now semiprofessional cyclist was just 10 years old, his soldier father was killed on duty.
This left his unemployed mother scrambling as she sought to take care of her five children alone. Pretty soon, she could not afford Musundi’s school fees, forcing him to drop out of junior high school.
“I had to leave Zimbabwe by the age of 15 and come to South Africa to search for a better life,” Musundi told DM168.
His mother was opposed to the idea of her eldest son leaving his country of birth to fend for himself in a foreign land, especially as he was still a teenager. However, Musundi was defiant and crossed the border by bus under the pretence of visiting an older paternal cousin, who was already working in South Africa.
He stayed with his cousin for a few months while searching for work, before he was employed as a gardener by the Steeler family, who lived in Mooikloof Estate in Pretoria.
“The people I was working for bought me a 24-inch bike. I used this as transportation to and from work. I was staying in Mamelodi by this time. The distance I cycled was about 40km a day in total from 2009 up until 2016,” said Musundi.
It was on one of his morning cycles to work that he was approached by members of the Pretoria South Lions Club, which supports various cycling activities, and quizzed about competitive cycling. He was intrigued to learn more about this world.
The racing begins
After getting time off from his then employers, Musundi took part in his first official training session with a team of other novices at the Cradle of Humankind. He won a time trial and a brand-new 29-inch mountain bike from the club.
He started competing in road and mountain bike races, including the 94.7 road race in 2016, which he completed in just more than three hours.
While Musundi was honing his riding skills, the team suggested he start training to be a bicycle mechanic. He joined Trailwolf Cycles in 2017 to learn the art of fixing bicycles and also started racing under its banner, which he continued to do until his departure in 2020.
Before leaving Trailwolf, he raced in the Bridgestone Route 66 MTB Experience and claimed a bronze medal. This meant he qualified for the Cape Epic. To prepare for the gruelling Epic, Musundi participated in small races around Pretoria – winning some and giving his all in the rest.
Then came the Cape Epic journey in March 2019. The endurance-testing 624km race was the Zimbabwean native’s biggest test yet.
After eight days of rigorous racing, he and teammate Shaun Oosthuizen crossed the finish line in 64th place in a total of 289 men’s teams. Their team was 108th overall in a field of 690.
“Unfortunately, Trailwolf had to close down due to Covid-19, in August 2020. That’s when I moved to Pyga Euro Steel to work with them as a bicycle mechanic. I’m still with them now. As a mechanic, I’m also a rider in the team’s academy,” Musundi said.
With all this experience under his belt, Musundi has big dreams and high hopes for his future in cycling.
It starts with his participation in the Zimbabwe National Mountain Bike and Road Championship in mid-April.
A great performance in his country of birth will see him represent Zimbabwe at the All Africa Games, which take place in Ghana in August this year.
“Since I started racing, I’ve wondered when or if I’d ever get the chance to compete in my home country. If I participate and succeed there, I might have an opportunity to go represent Zimbabwe [in the All Africa Games],” said Musundi.
When he heads to his native country, he will race in the category for cyclists with disabilities. Musundi has a congenital foot deformity.
Incredibly, he has only ever competed against able-bodied athletes, even beating some of them.
“All these years I was racing in the wrong category, because I was racing with the ‘normal’ people, while I am disabled. Even on my racing licence it says ‘elite men’, not para-elite. So, I was racing in the wrong groups,” Musundi said.
“On the mountain bike it doesn’t really matter. But in the road races, I was supposed to race in the para section. But I was racing with the elites.”
Musundi sometimes still struggles with discomfort in his feet when cycling. He has had to be innovative to work around this over the years.
“On both feet I only have two toes that are visible. The others are slightly visible, but they do not have nails. I can’t even walk on the ground without shoes,” he said.
“What I used to do is wear oversized socks and then fold them in the front [for cushioning], or maybe a bandage that I put over the front of my feet.”
The determined rider believes all his experiences will serve him well in his quest to qualify for the African spectacle in Ghana and, as he continues to navigate through life, one kilometre at a time.