Heart-transplant recipient takes on iconic mountain-bike stage race

cycling05 April 2024 06:00
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Billy Macleod

Billy Macleod will attempt something that has never been done before – to become the first South African heart transplant recipient to complete the three-day “KAP sani2c Trail” mountain bike (MTB) stage race!

Billy, a high-achieving pre-transplant athlete and cyclist, who previously completed four sani2c races, is on a mission to make up for lost time. For six years, heart disease sidelined him and kept him from doing what he loves most. Now, nearly 18 months after his successful heart transplant, Billy is ready to shoot for the moon and put his (new) heart into completing a race he loves.

It’s a team race, so Billy will need a partner to stand by his side, an experienced rider with multiple sani2c races under his belt, someone who can leave their ego at the start line, hop on an e-bike and race at Billy’s pace, while providing good company, lots of humour and encouragement for all 265 kilometres. That person will be none other than seven times sani2c finisher, AllLife CEO, Steph Bester.

The intrepid duo will race in the brand-new e-bike edition of the iconic event, the KAP sani2c Trail, which starts a day before the KAP sani2c Adventure and two days before the KAP sani2c Race. Billy will ride an e-bike sponsored by Cannondale. The pair hope to inspire other people with similar challenges to Billy’s to push their boundaries and live life to the fullest.


Billy’s heart transplant came just in time – doctors had given him two weeks to live. As he prepared for surgery, he faced the impossible task of saying goodbye to his wife and daughter, not knowing whether he would survive or what kind of life awaited him if he did.

But Billy’s spirit was determined to triumph and having made it through surgery, he knew he’d keep his promise to his wife that they would ride tandem bikes again together. After an incredible recovery, he knew he’d been given a second chance for a reason and, determined not to waste it, he now tells his story, raises awareness and inspires hope via his post-transplant achievements.


Billy explains the motivation behind his sani2c attempt: “To stay positive through uncertain days, I set a goal to compete in a stage race. I’m doing it for multiple reasons – to show people there is life after a transplant, to honour my donor and keep their legacy alive, to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation, for the joy of riding, and for my family without whose support nothing would be possible.

“Speaking of making things possible, I am so unbelievably grateful for new technology like e-bikes that make it possible for me, and people like me, to continue doing what we love.”

Billy’s teammate, Steph Bester was humbled and honoured to be asked by Billy to race with him. The two are supported by sani2c race owner, Glen Haw, known as­ Farmer Glen to cyclists. Glen is sponsoring their team entry and a luxury tent for them in the race village, so they can rest up in style at the end of some tough days.

“We are grateful to Glen for his support for this endeavour,” said Steph. “I have always been inspired by people’s real stories of overcoming challenges and showing the world what is possible with the right mindset and attitude. For me Billy is one of those people. Sani2c is a very special race, tough and extremely rewarding, and I look forward to sharing this adventure with Billy.”


When asked how he plans to support Billy throughout the race, given Billy’s unique circumstances, Steph jokingly replied: “Leaving breadcrumbs for him to follow, loads of humour and the odd deep meaningful conversation when you see a hill in front that you wished wasn’t there! Jokes aside though, Billy is an inspiration and we will pick a pace that will see us cross the finish with loads of smiles.”

Billy will also be using the KAP sani2c Trail as a platform to raise both funds and awareness for Hero777. The foundation, which aims to increase awareness about organ and tissue donation in South Africa, is close to Billy’s heart, pardon the pun, and while this is the first stage race he will attempt, it’s not his first post-transplant cycle race waving the Hero777 banner.