We touched base with Tumelo to chat about life in Lesotho and his journey thus far. He opens up about his experiences growing up in Lesotho, his journey into cycling, and the challenges faced by his community. The conversation covers a wide range of topics, from his beginnings in cycling to his thoughts on the future of his country and how he wishes to bring positive change to it.

Tell us about how you started cycling;

I got into cycling around 2012, not really for racing but just riding, and I was around 15 years old. Things took a turn when my friend, Moselantja Realeboha Pule, passed away. She used to race, and her loss hit me hard, so I decided to honour her by getting into competitive cycling myself. Back then, races weren’t all fancy like they are now. We didn’t have all these cool pump tracks or well-designed mountain bikes. It was mostly gravel racing, and I was trying my best to keep up. I didn’t have a proper road or mountain bike, just something in between, but I raced with all I had. Those early days were about local races and giving national championships a shot, even though I was nowhere near the top riders. This whole journey started because of Moselantja, and her memory still fuels my love for cycling.

How would you explain Lesotho to someone who has never been?

Lesotho might be small, but its incredible natural beauty is best seen in its magnificent mountains. But it’s important to know that the country faces economic challenges and is among Africa’s poorest. As for livelihoods, many work in factories due to the country’s less advanced education system compared to other countries. Factories offer a common means of making a living and improving lives, especially since finding jobs, even after higher education, can be tough. So factory work is the only option for the majority.

What was your childhood like?

I mean, I didn’t have a very good childhood because my parents died in 2009. So there was literally no one to help me or raise me except my grandmother. And, yeah, it’s been really hard for me. I was 13 when both my parents passed away; they were both ill, but they had divorced by then. They divorced when I was around 10, so my dad was the one who was there for me, and we were living with our dad because my mom wasn’t as supportive, and the court decided that we stay with our dad. After their passing, if my grandmother hadn’t stepped in to help, I don’t know where I would have ended up.

Can we talk about what makes it hard to live in Lesotho?

It’s a real struggle for families here to send their kids to school. Jobs are scarce, and most families are either poor or really, really poor. There’s not much in between. As for wealthy people, yes, there are some, and they’re among the richest on the continent. However, the majority of the population falls into the poor category. It’s a harsh reality.

In terms of crime, it’s a big issue here too. It’s not limited to targeting a specific group, like in South Africa. People often resort to crime just to survive. They steal, rob shops, and do whatever they can to get by. Drugs are also a problem, with many people turning to substances like marijuana.

The education system here isn’t easy either. Class sizes are huge—around 50 students per class. And traveling outside the country is a privilege that not many have. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity.

Lesotho’s natural beauty lies in its mountains and its people, who are generally very kind. However, there’s a dark side with violence being an everyday thing, especially in the city where everyone is just trying to survive. It’s a tough environment.

Looking ahead, the political situation seems to be improving. Corruption is an issue, but I do see some positive changes. If things continue this way, I think the country could get better over the next decade.

Violence has unfortunately been a part of my life. The area where I lived was dangerous, and I’ve lost family members to violence. It’s become a normal part of life here, which is incredibly sad. I literally lived where my parents had a house, and it is one of the most dangerous places in the city. Even the closest people to me died because they were shot and killed, but the criminals are always getting away with it. My grandma was raped and killed, and I still struggle with that every day.

Tell us about your family?

I’ve been married since 2019. We have a daughter who’s about to turn two at the end of this month. As for any plans for more kids, that’s a bit personal. To be honest, raising our current child has been quite a challenge on its own, so the idea of having more kids isn’t really on the horizon for me right now. This kind of situation is quite common in many African countries, including Lesotho, where people often think that having more children means more support in the future. But in reality, it’s not that simple. Raising kids requires a lot of resources, and the notion that more kids equates to better support doesn’t always hold true.

What keeps you motivated?

It’s really about continuously improving in cycling and striving for better results. Initially, cycling was just a passion and never something I thought would become my profession. However, seeing how much of an inspiration I am to the young ones here in my community is a huge motivation for me. I find happiness in my family, particularly my daughter, and the idea of providing a better life for them.

What about the next generation of cyclists in Lesotho?

The pump tracks have been a game-changer for cycling in Lesotho. They’ve got a bunch of kids off the streets and into a healthier lifestyle. But you know, there’s this thing with politics getting in the way. Sometimes when new people get elected to the cycling committee, it turns into a messy fight, and that just messes up the whole vibe. So, I think the key is for everyone to just get along and make it a big cycling family.

Cycling and those Velosolutions Pump Tracks have really changed things in the community. Kids who could have been up to no good are now riding and having a blast. Families are getting into it, and you wouldn’t believe the skills some of these kids have on those tracks. It’s crazy, but in a good way. Even the races are heating up more than the usual mountain biking ones. It’s all pretty awesome to see.

What makes you happy?

Yeah, you know, what makes me happy is just living each day and facing life as it comes. Even though it can be tough, it’s the drive that keeps me moving forward. And having my daughter by my side brings me a lot of joy. It’s really special to have my own little family with my wife. They’re my support system, and that connection truly brings happiness to my life.

Your journey with the Pump for Peace Racing Team—how’s it been?

My journey so far has been one of personal growth; it’s been really beautiful, and it has been one of the nicest things that happened to me as a professional racer.

What is your favorite Squirt Cycling product, and why?

The Squirt Chain lubricant since I am aware of the benefits the wax-based lubricant provides. I’ve also used the lube for the Cape Epic and World Cups, so I know it works in all conditions and on all terrain.

Throughout the interview, Tumelo’s resilience, determination, and commitment to improving his community shine through, painting a picture of a young man who is making the best of his circumstances and striving to create a better future for himself and others.