This year saw the birth of a new series for the younger generation to showcase their talent – it is an adapted version of the fast and exciting Eliminator format which the UCI has added to the MTB World Cup Series – it’s the Inter School Eliminator Series.
Eliminator, or XCE, is short course heat racing, generally four riders per heat, racing around a course that takes roughly two minutes to complete – it is a sprint interval with obstacles and hairpin corners to test the riders’ explosive power and skills. The top two riders in each heat advance to the next round with the bottom two being eliminated from the event.
The courses offer plenty of overtaking sections and intense elbow to elbow racing – so close in fact that the occasional collision takes place, all a part of the racing, all adding to the thrill factor of this format.
Despite the popularity and rapid growth, cycling is still not recognised as an official school sport in many schools around the country. With the XCE courses being so short and because races are able to take place on any terrain, it was an opportunity to bring the racing closer, right onto the school grounds and in some cases through the school itself! This made the events more accessible to spectators and it was also a lot more comfortable. Gone are the days of the “school mom” run tuck shop, kids are treated to fully serviced restaurants – no complaints, we got great coffee at every event!
The series for 2014 took place in the Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng with three races in each province. Over and above the three age divisions for both girls and boys was the trophy for the Overall winning school in each province which turned out to be hotly contested and formed a rivalry to match that of mainstream school sports.
As with all events, the Inter School Eliminator Series would not have been possible without the support of the sponsors. The series had R140 000 worth of prizes on offer – from headphones, helmets, kit, vouchers and more all supplied by their sponsors Catlike, World of Heroes, Skullcandy, Enjoy Fitness, Fox Racing, OGIO and Rockets. At each event, the local bike shops in the area also got involved to support the kids and help out with any technical issues. These shops included Velolife, Olympic Cycles, Freewheel Cyclogy, Chris Williamse Cycles, Zululand Cycles, Concept Cyclery, Bruce Reyneke Cycles and Rad Cycles.
The series kicked off in the Western Cape hosted by Bishops Diocesan College. From the first start, racing was tough and after prize-giving the entries for round two flooded in. Paul Roos Gymnasium provided a unique twist with sandbags to make the route go upstairs. Hoërskool DF Malan was greeted by a large crowd including the first heat of female entrants. The course was completely urban around the school building and included descending down a flight of stairs.
KwaZulu Natal was met by a small but very enthusiastic field of riders with a number of riders entering their first ever cycling event. Unfortunately there was not enough interest from female riders, except for a very talented and hard charging Tiffany Keep who kept the boys on their toes. Like Bishops, Kearsney College is one of those schools that really embrace MTB and also have their own XCO course on the school grounds, including some great single track. A steep climb out the start gates tested the riders at Crawford College La Lucia, but afterwards riders were rewarded with a fast-flowing downhill singletrack through a conservancy. Ashton College offered a fast urban course through the corridors of the school to entertain the spectators.
By the time the series reached Gauteng the riders and schools were chomping at the bit. Spectators were treated to three hotly contested races in all age groups. Sutherland High School in Pretoria provided a long and fast track with the distance proving a bit too much for some riders as they lost steam up the final climb. Northern Farm, Diepsloot was possibly the best track we had with the whole course being designed from scratch and a number of man-made obstacles being built especially for the races. The farm, having trails open to the public on weekends meant that visitors got to be entertained by the racing action once they were done with their rides. For the final race of the series, King David High School in Linksfield agreed to have the course race directly through the foyer of their school hall.
The series went beyond all expectations; it was great to see that the country has so much potential talent. This discipline is growing globally and hopefully this will be the start of finding the competitive athlete to represent South Africa in XCE. It’s also a great stepping stone for riders to get into racing and other disciplines as it teaches them the fundamentals and only requires two minutes of effort.
A big thanks needs to go out to those in the cycling industry who got behind the series to support the youth. The prizes on offer had a number of the pro riders wanting to join in on the racing. Lastly to the parents, you forget that at school level you are not driving yourself to the events but mom and dad are waking up (sometimes both days, every weekend) to drive you out to events, hang out and cheer you on. The enthusiasm from the spectators (mainly family members) was electrifying and sometimes deafening as they screamed out their support.
The Inter School Eliminator Series for 2015 plans to grow and incorporate both the North West Province and Eastern Cape into the series which will total 15 events over five provinces. All the information will be released at the end of November, so keep an eye on Full Sus and www.onemovement.co.za.