Amongst the latest entries for the inaugural Underberg Gran Fondo gravel bike race is the name of well-known business personality Con Malherbe, eager to use the new race to further his revamped lifestyle plans as he manages his battle with cancer.
Malherbe was diagnosed with Myeloma in November 2020, and while his doctors watched and waited, the man who is the driving force behind the popular CoffeeBerry outlets in Pietermaritzburg and Hilton used it as a motivator to make drastic changes to his lifestyle, shifting to a plant-based, gluten and dairy-free diet.
“My doctors said it would progress but I had other ideas!” he said.
As an keen cyclist he used the lifestyle shift to focus on his riding, and as he lost weight and improved his conditioning with his new coach, results soon came his way.
Having just turned sixty, he won the national MTB Grand Master marathon title at the recent Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival, and now wants to add another national age-group jersey to his collection by taking on the national gravel champs in the Cape early in September.
“The Underberg Gran Fondo is now the KZN Champs and is perfectly timed to prepare me for the nationals at the hundred mile Race To The Sea. I have the possibility of getting double SA champs titles in marathon and then gravel this year!
“I want to prove the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and I have had a really good sixtieth year,” he added, alluding to his second place finish in his age group at the recent Joberg2C and his age group wins in the KAP Sani2C a few weeks later and the Berg And Bush.
“I have moved to the midlands, so gravel biking was the natural choice,” he explained, “Where I live in Nottingham Road I train predominantly on the gravel bike and we have an unbelievable network of gravel roads there.
“I was introduced to the gravel roads of Underberg when we did a training camp there last year, and I got a feel for the area and a real love for gravel. We also plan to make a full weekend of it in Underberg, which we are really looking forward to,” said Malherbe.
As he enjoys the benefits of his new lifestyle choices and avoiding intensive medical treatment, Malherbe credits motivation from another athlete and Multiple Myeloma patient Oscar Chalupsky for inspiration.
“The moment Bridgitte Hartley heard that I had Myeloma she sent me the link to Oscar and his story,” said Malherbe. “He has been a major inspiration to me as I fight this disease that has no symptoms.”
Any Grand Master with plans on the KZN gravel title at the Underberg Gran Fondo will start alongside a fired-up and enthusiastic Malherbe, for whom the debut gravel race in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg will be just another chapter in his ongoing battle against Myeloma.