Although Luthando Kaka, one of the Life Cycling Academy's top riders, left the Academy in 2010 to join a top South African road cycling team based in Johannesburg, he continues to serve as a Board member of the organisation and as an inspiration and a positive role model to many young cyclists at Velokhaya. Follow this rising star in South African cycling on Twitter @Luthandokaka!
Getting to know Luthando:
In June 2008 a 23-year old cyclist from Khayelitsha, Luthando Kaka, made history when he became the first black South African road cyclist to become a permanent member of a European continental cycling team. His dream is to be the first black cyclist to compete in the Tour de France, cycling's premier event.
Born: January 5, 1986, Cape Town, South Africa
Resides: When in South Africa, I live with my parents and younger brother in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. My mother, Mandisa Marriel Kaka-Mbusi is a stay-at-home mom and my step-father, Michael Mhlophe Mbusi, is a plumber with Cape Peninsula Plumbing Company. I have a younger brother, Sothembela Mbusi.
First time on a bicycle: It was in 1994 at the age of 8. My parents bought me a BMX bicycle as a gift. I fell in love with cycling, enjoyed the fun aspect and still find it fun. I also enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with competitive racing, the lifestyle associated with cycling and the team dynamics of the sport, plus the support of a team.
Education: I graduated from Uxolo High School in Khayelitsha in 2003 and then went on to study journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I graduated with 3-year Diploma in Journalism at end of 2008 after completing my practical year as editorial assistant on Bicycling SA magazine (which ended in March 2008). My parents attended my graduation ceremony on my behalf at the end of March 2009 as I was back in Europe at the time. Finding time for academic studies while pursuing an international cycling career isn't easy, but I've managed to do both thanks to the support I've received - and because I believe that education is as important as winning races.
Alternative career choice? Public Relations/Communications. (I have a diploma in journalism from Cape Peninsula University of Technology).
What do you like about yourself? The fact that I am a fighter and that I never give up and always find a way, no matter how significant the obstacles in my way. I also approach life with a positive attitude, believing that I will achieve success if I work hard.
What do you/don't you enjoy: I enjoy eating pasta, watching comedies, reading biographies, spending time with friends, reading cycling magazines. I don't enjoy being around lazy people and I also don't like dishonest people.
Which person has inspires you? My mother, Glyn Broomberg and Amos Ziqubu.
What inspires you? People who make something of their lives, even if they're faced with difficult circumstances.
Special diet? I do follow a special diet given to me by Dr Jeroen Swart from Cape Town Sports Science Institute.
Favourite movie? "Meet the Fockers."
Favourite TV programme: Desperate Housewives.
Favourite book? "After tears" - by Niq Mhlongo
Favourite cyclists: International: Lance Armstrong. South African: Burry Stander
Personal philosophy? "Where I come from defines who I am, not what I become." It is important for those who are less privileged in life to realise that their past does not necessarily define their future. While it is important to acknowledge and embrace one's past - because it has contributed to who you are - it need not define who you become and what you are able to achieve.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced? The biggest obstacle I've faced - and one that has had a lasting effect on me - happened in 2003. At the time I was doing my Grade 12 (final year at secondary school) and things were looking good on the cycling front, I was writing my final exams and cycling well - and then my mother fell ill. I had to take care of my mother, younger brother, study and do a little bit of cycling in between. In the end I passed my Grade 12, took care of my family and still managed to perform on the bike. I was also selected to represent South Africa at the Tour de l'Abitibi in Canada. When I look back on that time, all I can say is that nothing's impossible if you keep your eye on your goals.
What challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis? Striving for success in a sport where no other black person from a similar background has ever made it to the top.
How do you overcome these challenges? By not letting where I came from or my background be responsible for who I become.
How has overcoming these challenges equipped you for your move to Europe? They have made me believe in myself and my capabilities and made me realise there is no short-cut to anywhere worth going.
What advice do you have for other young cyclists from disadvantaged communities? Through hard work, self-belief and dedication, dreams do come true - no matter where you come from.
How often are you training at the moment? I train 6 days a week, for between two and five hours a day. I often train alone but most enjoy training with others, especially with world class cyclists.
Are you a climber or a sprinter? I'm pretty much an all-rounder. In Europe I've focused on climbing and riding longer races.
Are you cycling full-time and if so, what is the best thing about cycling as a job? I have been a full-time cyclist since March 2008. I started cycling because I loved the sport and thought it was fun. The fact that I could make a living from cycling was beyond my wildest imagination; but the best thing about cycling as a job is being able to do what I love. Having come this far is just a bonus for me.
What are your cycling dreams for the future? To be the first black African to join a European pro-team, to have a successful cycling career in Europe and to ride in the Tour de France in the next two to four years.
Family response to cycling overseas? My family has always been very supportive; having the opportunity to join the European team came sooner than expected but we're all very excited and they know I will do my best. They are very proud of me.
Community response to cycling success? The community of Khayelitsha is proud of me and my success has definitely inspired other township youngsters to follow a similar route.
Best cycling moment to date? Leading for half an hour at the 2008 Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour was the best moment ever. My family, friends and millions of South Africans were watching the race live on TV and that just gave me extra motivation to stay ahead.
Recap on your cycling career:
I first joined the Millennium Cycling Club in Khayelitsha where I met Amos Ziqubu who took care of me with very limited funds, sometimes even using funds out of his own pocket to support my cycling. Two years later I met Janet and John Moss, who introduced me to the CSC/CVT junior team manager. I spent one year with the team as a junior before joining the Life Cycling Academy (LCA) in 2004 after meeting Glyn Broomberg. Around that time Glyn had established a junior team and I became the first elite rider to compete for the Academy. Glyn and Amos - co-founders of the LCA - threw me a life-line as I was starting to lose hope in the sport. I was proud to become the LCA's first elite rider in 2005. In 2006, the Academy formed an elite team comprising riders from previously disadvantaged communities and I became captain of the Elite team. I rode for the European team, Team Glud & Marstrand Horsens (Team GMH), for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Comment on Tour de France 2007 visit - how did your visit to the event inspire you? The visit to the 2007 Tour de France gave me first-hand experience of cycling in Europe; it made me see the bigger picture and gave me a chance to see where I wanted to be in the next four years. My goal now is to get a place in a pro-cycling team.
2009 Results - Cycling in Europe as a member of a Continental cycling team
84th Tour of Denmark (UCI 2.HC) (Domestique role only)
5th Odense Onko (150km)
12th Frederecia Classic (140km)
10th Bogerse Criterium
18th Super Brugsen Race (124km)
10th Kvickly Race (160km)
50th Flech Du Sud (UCI 2.1)
58th Kempen (UCI 1.1) (200km)
45th Tour de Loire (UCI 2.2)
9th SA National Road Race (elite) (180km)
16th Argus Cycle Tour
Highlights of Luthando's cycling career (prior to going to Europe)
9th at the 2007 Knysna Road race
7th at the 2007 Tour of Durban
2nd at the 2007 Western Province Championships
8th at the 2007 Amashovashova cycle tour
12th at the 2007 OFM Cycle tour
9th at the 2007 South African U23 Road Championships
9th at the 2007 Die Burger cycle tour
12th at the EP Herald Cycle tour
1st at the Western Province U23 2008 road race
30 minute solo break-away at the 2008 Cape Argus Cycle T, eventually finishing 71st.
45th at 2008 Giro del Capo
Apart from having represented South Africa at the 2007 World B Championships and at the Intaka Worlds View Challenge, Luthando has achieved numerous podium positions in Cape Town/local Pedal Power Association (PPA) organised races.
Profile date: October 2009