For medical professional and avid cyclist Hendrik Theron the Bestmed Cycle4Cansa Championship is a bit of a personal crusade.
As a cancer survivor, he returns to the Sun City event every year to support the organisers’ fundraising efforts in aid of the Cancer Association of South Africa.
“I always enter the race because a part of the income goes to helping people who are sick with cancer and I see it as an opportunity to give back,” said the general practitioner from Brits.
He will line up alongside his two sons and one of their girlfriends for the 20th edition, which consists of 25 and 50km mountain bike events on Saturday and 70 and 103km road races on Sunday.
They will join more than 5 000 other riders who are expected to line up for the road races alone, with the traditional R10 donation per entrant going to Cansa.
This year, participants will also have an opportunity to challenge anyone else to match their entry fee in the form of a donation to Cansa as part of the #WeCAN campaign.
Theron said he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most aggressive and life-threatening form of skin cancer, in 2004.
He explained the initial lesion had been excised before having sentinel lymph node biopsies done to determine whether the cancer had spread.
“These were fortunately clean and I had intensive follow-ups for five years. At the moment, I just go for mole mapping at my dermatologist,” said Theron, who confirmed he was in remission.
Throughout his treatment, he said, cycling had acted as a balm of sorts, allowing him to keep fit and get his mind off the disease.
“I continued to cycle on a regular basis. It’s good for your immune system, which, with a tumour like melanoma, is very important because it’s basically your immune system that has to fight the cancer.
“It was also a way to escape mentally from my day-to-day work stresses.”
Theron said he had been well and truly bitten by the cycling bug after lining up for his first Cape Town Cycle Tour in 2001. In the ensuing years, he has ridden most of the country’s big mass participation races, including a handful of Cycle4Cansa events.
After a quieter winter season, the 55-year-old said he didn’t have any time goals and would just be focusing on battling through the expected blustery conditions.
“I have not had a good winter exercise programme, so I don’t have any goals for the race. I’ll just be going to enjoy it.
“Looking at the weather of late, I think it’s going to be somewhat of a challenge. The wind always blows at the event, but I think this weekend there might be a little more wind than usual.”