Cycling is one of the oldest sporting events in Nigeria. Before then, the sport was for leisure, recreation, and to keep fit (physical fitness). This sport is one of the most expensive sports due to the cost of equipment and parts which are imported from developed and industrialized countries like the United Kingdom, Europe, America, and Asia. The cost-effective, make it difficult for many people or clubs to be involved or procure the special bicycle and outfits.
Oriasatoki Mobolaji is a cycling coach, teacher, and programme leader at a college in East London and an associate lecturer at the University. His passion for cycling is undiluted since childhood but footballing and other sports negate his interest while riding a bicycle in the compound was considered.
Started his elementary and secondary education in Nigeria, and decided to proceed to the United Kingdom for University education where he lived, studied, and bagged a BSc in Computer Science, Master’s degree, and Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from the prestigious University of London (UCL) and currently in the process to complete his Ph.D. His new environment and education ignited his childhood passion for cycling.
In this interview with African Development Magazine, the Nigerian/British Orisatoki speaks about his cycling experience, challenge, tournaments and plan to establish a cycling club to encourage the youth and reduce unemployment.
Below are excerpts:
Have you fulfilled a dream in your life by going into cycling racing? Where does the intense connection to the two-wheeler come from? Share with us, the journey into cycling?
Interestingly, I didn’t realise cycling was an interesting sport when I was younger. But growing up with the sports I watched were football, boxing, track and field sports, swimming, etc. Therefore, cycling was not my childhood dream because I wanted to play football, and as much as I show interest, I wasn’t encouraged. Alternatively, I had a bicycle as a child and cycled with kids in our compound.
Luckily, I moved to the UK in 2001 where I saw Tour-de-France for the first time and how crazy people went when the tour was on and the support people gave the cyclists when they rode through England. The tour drew my interest and the amazing story of the now-disgraced 2001 winner Lance Armstrong (Now banned for doping) how he recovered from cancer and won seven tours.
In addition, I love seeing people cycling in groups, to work, enjoying the weather and nature, especially in summer. I love two-wheels, just to throw this in, I am also a fan of motorbikes and I have one and I don’t own a car.
I have been opportune to raise money for The Red Cross, Homeless charity, and some other charities through my passion for cycling. I have raced in some regional races (age group), Time Trial, Duathlons, and Triathlons in England and France.
What do you think is the most important skill a manager or coach of a cycling sports team needs to have?
Firstly, aims and objectives for the team are very important. A coach must be able to set out achievable goals. I have worked with experienced coaches and team managers, one thing they all have in common is that at the beginning of every season, the aims of the team will be given to each member of the team as a guideline to work with. Objectives are tricky but a good coach must be able to design an achievable objective.
Secondly, trusting a coach is important in every sport, if an athlete does not trust a coach, then there will be a conflict of interests and the aim of the team will be compromised.
Furthermore, determination and investing in people is another skill a coach must possess. A coach cannot be selfish, he or she needs to dedicate his/her life to creating better persons. I wake up every morning not only for myself but to create a better future and to invest in the coming generation.
In addition, the importance of teamwork must be taught from a young age. This world can be a better place if we work as a team. Eliud Kipchoge said “I am here because of teamwork. I am here because sport is a mutual interest. I am here to talk about my success because I am really about teamwork. Teamwork helps a lot. Remember in sport, what you have is Hero’s Formula. If you are a hero, then you have a formula and that says 100% of myself is nothing compared to one percent of the whole team. And vice versa. 1% percent of the teams is nothing compared to 100% of myself. And that’s the meaning of teamwork.”
Is there a tactic for each player and for each route? Do you have a set of tactics or do you adapt them to each route in detail?
Yes, there are many disciplines in cycling such as BMX, Mountain Bike, Track Cycling, Cyclocross, and many others. Track Cycling and Road Cycling are team sports that include a leader and domestique. The team manager will have to choose each role according to the rider’s strength and attitude to help the team.
How much has the Coronavirus pandemic changed cycling? How were and are you affected as a team?
Of course, YES! Like other sports, Covid-19 affected group training and races, but we adapted to virtual training using an application called ‘Zwift ’ which was an amazing experience. There are other technologies that have helped us to keep training and keep our fitness up. During the national lockdown, I was able to go out and ride on my own or with my daughter. Cycling can be an individual sport, especially during training.
Will you consider the establishment of a cycling club in collaboration with the Cycling Federation of Nigeria (CFN) as a way to catch the younger ones and to reduce unemployment in Africa?
That would be a dream come true to see Nigeria in the next Olympics with teenagers challenging South Americans and Europeans. I believe CFN can do more to promote cycling like their counterparts such as British Cycling which I am a member of. Having youth training and getting involved in the sport at an early age is fantastic and I am ready for the challenge.
Cycling can bring employment if we take it seriously. As we have seen the football and entertainment industry which have produced many entrepreneurs in Nigeria. I have no doubt that cycling can bring in businesses, investments, and jobs which will reduce unemployment in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Tell us your plans and innovation to promote the cycling club?
The plan is to start with a youth club especially at secondary schools. We will start with off-road training where it is safe for training and to teach awareness, group riding, and skills.
Getting the government to support this scheme through road safety, health officials and the police would be very good and it will help in promoting the sport from the grassroots.
How would you inspire people to ride more bikes in their lives and what are the benefits?
Cycling is fun and rewarding. People can save on hospital bills make, save gym membership, save time. I believe people know the benefit of sports and exercising. Cycling is not limited to youths only; older people can also get involved in social rides when it is safe to do so.
With your leadership role as a school teacher and a cycling coach living in the western world, what are the needs in Africa? What will it take to build entrepreneurship and employment in Africa? And what are you trying to do to move the needle?
Teaching has helped me in creating session plans and other administrative parts of coaching. In addition, it has enabled me to tailor my coaching style to suit individuals. Observation is one of the skills you develop as a teacher and how to help students improve. I have been teaching for over a decade and I have been able to use classroom management skills to manage group training.
Africa is blessed with many talents and human resources is our strength. We have entrepreneurs who are doing amazing things. I believe cycling will bring in tourism, foreign investment, and great opportunities to the continent.
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?
Completing Ride100 four times and raising money for charities. I also enjoyed racing in France, French people are crazy when it comes to cycling. My first race in France was unforgettable, I could not believe my average speed because of the adrenaline and the great support during the event.