Milan-San Remo was Songezo Jim's introduction to the WorldTour, and the MTN-Qhubeka rider got a rude welcome. The first black South African to take on the race had to face unexpected snow, rain and cold, but also saw teammate Gerald Ciolek take the win, leading him to say, “I can’t believe I was a part of it all.”
Like so many others, Jim said that Sunday "was the coldest I have ever been on a bicycle. Still I would not want to be anywhere else in the world. I still can’t believe yesterday happened and keep thinking I am going to wake up from a dream."
As the race went along, the weather went from bad to worse. Jim crashed 70 km into the day and took another 22 km to catch up again. “It was snowing, it was wet and the rain kept coming down. I was riding with my eyes closed at some point because there was no visibility with sunglasses but when you took them off the snow went into your eyes."
He had not heard that the race was being stopped, and was confused when he saw all the riders pulling over. “I thought I am not giving up in this race. I am going to carry on because this is all I dreamed of."
But Jim soon found out what was happening and went to his team bus, where he got some much needed help. “I was so cold I could not take off my gloves or any of my clothes. Our director, Jens had to undress me as my fingers were frozen."
When things got back underway, he devoted himself to Ciolek and Andreas Stauff. “It was great racing with them as they taught me where to sit and what to do. I kept asking them what to do and they told me when to move up. I learned so much from them yesterday, they are incredible guys.” He held it out as long as he could, but with 50km to go, Jim had to abandon.
“While the racing and weather was so hard I was thinking why am I doing this, this is horrible. But then I thought this is what I’ve dreamed about. If I want to be a professional in Europe I have to endure days like this. Gerald winning was just unbelievable. I can’t believe I was a part of it all."
The story of Songezo Jim is one of the MTN-Qhubeka team's most inspirational: after being orphaned and sent to live with his Aunt 1000km away from his home, Jim discovered cycling when the Cape Argos Tour went past his home. Although he had never ridden a bike, he immediately felt a strong urge to become one of those riders. Fast forward eight years and he is racing at the highest level.