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Centurion heart transplant recipient takes on a historic first for South Africa

Billy Macleod is competing in the KAP sani2c MTB trail stage race to honour his donor and raise awareness that lives can be saved through organ donation.

Heart transplant recipient Billy Macleod is about to attempt a historic move as he takes on the KAP sani2c trail stage race less than two years after he received a new heart.

Macleod has been on a mission to honour his donor and raise awareness about the gift of life that an organ donation can be to many like him.

“I’m so nervous because this is a massive challenge. It has never been done before so I will be the first transplant patient to do a stage race,” he told Rekord.

From April 23-25, Macleod will be riding carrying the Hero777 banner, together with the South African Transplant Sports Association.

Ten years ago, Billy Macleod was living the life, having completed 10 Iron Mans, participated in major cycling races, and was proud of his remarkable fitness.

But his world took an unexpected turn when he began to feel exhausted and noticed irregularities in his health.

By the end of 2022, and after years of facing this reality about his health, Macleod’s life would forever be changed when he received a new heart.

He is now taking on a different sort of challenge, as he takes on the three day trail together with his riding partner and a little assistance with the use of an e-bike.

“It is not a motorbike, you still have to work!”

He said that bicycle manufacturer and sponsor Cannondale’s bet on him and the ability to use these types of bikes opens up the sport to a wider audience.

“For people like me that have had transplants, it means that we are able to take on these things. It is less strenuous on the body. Even though you still have to work, you still got to ride, it takes all that pressure off your organs,” he said.

“People that have gone through transplants, or who are living with chronic diseases, or even people that are in a position where they are in that dark hole and believe they can’t do anything like this, this really opens up that field.

“Without it, this would absolutely not be possible.”

Macleod said his doctors warned him to keep his heartrate below 140 bpm, which would not be possible without the change.

He will also be assisted by his riding partner, meant to be Steph Bester of AllLife, but on Sunday, Macleod received the news that Bester would not be able to compete due to a severe chest infection.

“Steph is absolutely devastated,” Macleod said.

Despite his inability to tackle the challenge, AllLife will still be behind Macleod all the way.

“So [on Sunday] we were running around trying to find a replacement, and we have found a really good replacement.”

He will be accompanied by the very capable Con Malherbe, who will be filling Bester’s shoes.

“Steph and I had agreed that it would be at my pace. There’s going to be a lot of stopping, if I’m exhausted, I need to stop.”

Macleod said that the new pairing was a perfect one as their interests were aligned.

“He is a stemcell transplant patient and a really strong rider.

“He understands what we are doing this for. He used to be into the racing, but now his whole mindset has changed.”

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