Mr Lange

The month I started cycling, I bought a cycling magazine. I don’t remember which one but what I do remember is the man on the cover. Malcolm Lange was a young man wearing the HSBC kit and the cover story was about the amount of wins this young man had won in his career. I think the number was at around 200. As I paged through the magazine, I realized just how difficult the sport was that I had decided to take on. My first ride was the Ride for Sight. I took a blind rider on a tandem for 70km. We had to stop many times along the ride for “ass-breaks” as I had never been on a bike before. It was a borrowed tandem that I only met that morning. Despite the pain, the dehydration and the sore legs I was hooked and I bought a bike that very week from Sportsman’s Wharehouse. As the sport guy on SAfm I started getting involved with the professionals of the sport. In fact, the first time I started interacting with professional cyclists was as an IT journalist as Microsoft took over from HSBC as sponsor and that was when I met Malcolm Lange for the first time. I was stars-struck. Lange and his team were tanned, strong and small. Cyclists are built like jockeys; not quite, maybe a light-weight boxer. There is not an ounce of extra fat on a cyclist’s body but they eat! I interviewed Lange about team tactics, race radios and how technology changes the sport that he loves. It was a long chat but due to the nature of modern media, I had to cut it up and edit it so not much was played. I remember him being very open and actually listened to the questions I asked him which was something I had never had from an interviewee who normally just want to spread the message they have been briefed to spread. Time moved on and so did Malcolm. He rode for a number of sponsors, there was the famous fall-out with former team mates and then Team Medscheme was created. I am a fan and I there are times when I struggle to be in independent journalist. Team Medscheme and Lange Sport make a point of treating their journalist fans well. It helps because we tend to treat them well too. Many other sporting teams can learn a lesson from the way journos, the public and fans are treated by Team Medscheme and now Team Bonitas. My training route out west of Johannesburg often leads me into the path of Malcolm and his team. Every single time they will slow down a bit and have a chat. They will always wave and they will always be positive. Post-race there is always a greeting, a hand shake or a smile even if they lost. I was invited to join the team for the last Tour d’ Vino in which the team struggled but still, there was lively chat afterwards amongst the team and the fans who came along for the very wet ride. It was there that I learnt an important lesson in journalisms 101. Never ask a team what went wrong because they will tell you! I have invited Malcolm to a studio chat on SAfm one Sunday, he came in. Pre-Cycle Tour interviews, he was there. Post-races interviews, he was there. I can’t remember a time when Malcolm said that he couldn’t make an interview or said no to anything I asked of him. Malcolm is a true professional not just on the bike but of it too. Sure, he might grind some people, like race organizers, but I feel that he is doing his job. When he complains about safety, it not just for him but for all the cyclists on the day. When he complain about prize money, it’s not just him but all the categories and all the riders on the day. I thank you Malcolm for doing that photo shoot in that magazine; I thank you for introducing me to the sport that I love so much. I thank you for being the man you are and I hope that you remain in the sport that you have advanced so much in South Africa. May you have a quiet retirement an may you give the Vets category a run for their money as you relax and enjoy your family, your team and a ride along Hendrick Potgieter with me every now and again.

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