Start Them Young

Photo Credits: Luke Walker

SPUR HIGH SCHOOLS MTB LEAGUE

The Spur High School MTB League launched back in 2009 after Spur Steak Ranches approached Meurant Botha to start an initiative targeting 15-18-year-olds. At that time, a few provinces were operating structured school events but there was no national platform.

According to Michelle du Preez from Amarider it’s important to get kids onto bikes earlier. “As with any sport, the earlier a child is exposed, the earlier they are able to develop the skills needed in order to participate and enjoy the outdoors.” The advantages for schools are tremendous because they are able to enter an entire team from their respective schools. “The League provides a platform for riders to compete as a team and moves the sport away from the more historic individual focus. We are now seeing school teams supporting each other while races are on, belting out war cries on the side of the field, proudly wearing their school’s cycling kit.”

The strongest regions in South Africa are Gauteng and the Western Cape. The Gauteng League has been going since 2001 and attracts around 800 entries per event. The Western Cape is second in terms of numbers seeing around 400 riders participating in the Spur events. Although the North West is smaller as a region it has dominated the Spur MTB Inter-Provincial Finals for a number of years. KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have a strong cycling culture and well-developed trails which is why they produce quality riders. According to Du Preez they are busy developing coaching and skills training. “We are currently working with SASC

(South African Schools Cycling), in having UCI qualified coaches Erica Green and Deon Carstens running coaching seminars and developing coaching material.” Cycling is a very expensive sport. But getting started while you are still in school means the bikes and gear are more affordable. A basic hard tail bike, flat pedals and a helmet is all you need to participate. What happens to riders when they leave school?  “While there is certainly room for a u/23 programme, the League’s focus is on the school’s age categories. First look at developing grass root levels rather than high performance.” The future looks bright for this wonderful initiative. “The Spur MTB League still has a long way to go. We’d like to see more schools buying into the concept and first prize would be to see MTB adopted as an official school sport.”

Entries & programmes available at www.spurmtbleague.co.za

Photo credits: Reblex Photography

JUNIOR ELIMINATOR SERIES

The second nationwide junior mountain bike league, called the Junior Eliminator Series started in 2014. This exciting series focused on getting school teams to create a ‘gees’ and fun rivalry much like that of rugby and hockey amongst the cyclists, aiming to introduce young riders to a UCI format; a great way to teach them skills needed to participate in the other cycling disciplines. Tyrone Rawlins is the director at One Movement Events and Marketing and says: “We have changed a few things since we started and we decided to also introduce older age groups to the series. This year we’ve seen some good varsity rivalries as well as some entertaining parents racing.” The advantages of competing in this league is that in each of Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Bloemfontein there’s a trophy and prize for the overall winning school team. All of the riders contribute points towards their team and the more heats the more points they collect. Rawlins agrees that mountain bike racing equals skills. “At many of our venues we hosted there is a skills coach helping with practice sessions assisting riders who have never ridden a rock garden or down a set of stairs.” One of the biggest misconceptions according to Rawlins is that mountain biking is an expensive sport. “You don’t need expensive equipment, especially kids out- growing their bike frames and shoes really quickly, are energetic enough to go fast over the short courses, regardless what equipment they are using.” His dreams are that a young rider would soon represent South Africa at the UCI World Cup program

Hopes and dreams for the Junior Eliminator Series are simple. “The series is still a baby and we are improving our tracks every year. We have incredible sponsors supporting us with fantastic prizes. We plan to expand into more provinces and we plan to find out which province is the fastest.”

Entries & programmes available at www.onemovement.co.za

Photo credit: Luke Walker

XTERRA KIDS

If practicing one type of sport is too boring for your children, why not let them try out an off-road triathlon? XTERRA is not a new concept in the world or South Africa and by judging the numbers, we cannot get enough of this addictive format. Michael Meyer is the Managing Director of Stillwater Sports, organisers of XTERRA in South Africa.  Meyer explains how the XTERRA Kids format came about. “As a lot of XTERRA athletes have children, it just made sense to host a mini XTERRA for the junior adventure seekers. The day is action-packed and filled with fun.  Moms and dads are seen running and riding alongside their children, cheering them on to the finish line.” The XTERRA Kids races cater for children aged 6 – 14. The first category is for ages 6 – 8 and the distances are 50m swim, 1,5km cycle and a 1km run. The second category caters for kids between9 – 11 and their distances are 100m swim, 5km cycle and a 2km run. Lastly the 12 – 14-year-olds need to complete a 200m swim, a 10km cycle and end off with a 3km run. What are the advantages of doing triathlons over other sports? “XTERRA is never boring. There is always a challenge. You get to improve your skill on three disciplines (swimming, mountain biking and trail running). XTERRAs are hosted in stunning areas and the routes boast magnificent views.” According to Meyer the XTERRA Kids race is currently only available in the Western Cape with the next event taking place in February 2018. “Going forward we would like to see more families enjoying the sport of XTERRA. In the long run, we’d like to see the children (when old enough) moving on to the XTERRA Lite and then ultimately the XTERRA Full.”

Entries & programmes available at www.stillwatersports.com

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