Riding For A Future Without Tuberculosis

Friday 24 March marks World TB Day – a commemoration designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis today remains an epidemic in much of the world. It’s a particularly important day for Kevin Grenfell because he lost his mother to a rare strain of TB (Mycobacterium Avium Complex) in March 2016.

Stage 4 of the 2014 Old Mutual Joberg2C Mountain Bike stage race from Sterkfontein to Winterton, South Africa on the 28th April 2014 Photo by Kelvin Trautman
Stage 4 of the 2014 Old Mutual Joberg2C Mountain Bike stage race from Sterkfontein to Winterton, South Africa on the 28th April 2014
Photo by Kelvin Trautman

Her death prompted Kevin to learn more about a disease that is as misunderstood as it is deadly. He discovered that TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and that many victims are children under the age of 10. In fact, every day, up to 200 children die from TB despite it being a preventable and curable disease. In South Africa specifically, there is an urgent need for public attention, prioritisation, commitment and funding for this disease. In a quest to lift children out of the shadows of TB – and in celebration of his mother’s life – Kevin was inspired to get on his bike.

He’ll be competing in the annual Old Mutal joBurg2c Mountain Bike race from 21 to 29 April, to raise funds for OneVoice South Africa (OVSA) a KZN based organisation that uses innovative and creative ways to actively involve young people on addressing the many critical health and lifestyle issues they face on a daily basis (including HIV and TB prevention and Enterprise Development). The race is the longest paired mountain biking stage race in South Africa taking place over nine days and covering approximately 900 kilometers from Heidelberg in Gauteng to Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Kevin’s entry has been sponsored by Old Mutual, who will be hosting his fundraiser drive on their portal ‘More than Yourself’ (make a difference and raise funds for a cause close to your heart – www.morethanyourself.co.za).

“Since I was a kid, my mom encouraged my love of riding,” says Kevin. “I remember getting my first BMX bike for Christmas in primary school in Pietermaritzburg. Back then (in the late 80’s, in a sleepy hollow town like PMB) it was safe to ride bikes all over the place. In standard 9, living in Durban, I got a job delivering newspapers every afternoon and weekend, and it was here that my real passion for cycling was born. I rode a cheap yellow ‘Peugeot’ MTB, purchased from the OK Bazaars (I think it was a 14 speed, certainly didn’t have suspension). It weighed a ton, but I loved it. I loved the freedom of being out on a trail, or riding along the beach front.”

Fast forward a few years later and Kevin started riding competitively, entering races (both road and MTB). “I entered my first races towards the end of 2010 (USN MTB Cup, Nissan Trailseeker, Northern’s Quickie) and I did the 94.7 road race. I became more and more obsessed and committed to the sport, and now consider myself ‘above average’, currently finishing in the Top 15 – 20% of most of the races entered. In March 2016 myself and a friend entered the 3 Mountains stage race at Clocholan in the Free State. Although the race was small, we managed to get a podium, finishing second overall in the Vets category.”

In 2016 Kevin’s life changed course when his mom died. “My mom was diagnosed with Mycobacterium Avium Complex, a rare strain of TB and was sick for about five years. She was hospitalised and in isolation in ICU in 2012, recovered slightly, but then regressed over the years until she needed to be on oxygen permanently. Despite her illness, she refused to give up on life. She would still go out and attend quilting and bible study with her friends. My mom died on 28 March 2016. While it was a devastating moment in my life, watching her fight back again and again in ICU it inspired me and gave me the strength to push myself harder and further in all aspects of my life, including cycling. To this day, my mother is my inspiration and my light when I hit dark moments in a race and in life,” says Kevin. “Riding for me is not just about riding hard and riding to beat myself. It’s my place of freedom, recovery, spirituality. It’s my meditation and my sanity.

Kevin is currently in intense training for the joBerg2c.


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