Children gathered to enjoy what for the majority was their first organised bicycle race as the Cycling South Africa Community (CSA) Cycling Series, supported by Qhubeka, World Vision SA and Limpopo Schools Cycling, was launched on 24 February in Chabelale Village, Limpopo.
Aimed at encouraging bicycle use in South Africa, Cycling South Africa channeled funds from Sports and Recreation South Africa’s Cycle for Life budget into the CSA Community Cycling Series as part of its drive to develop cycling talent and interest in the sport in South Africa at a grassroots level.
Cycling South Africa’s General Manager, Mike Bradley, said: “We’ve seen the Qhubeka Community Cycle Series as a fantastic opportunity to present these youngsters with an idea of what racing bicycles is all about, but most of all for them to have fun and enjoy it. Cycling SA can now use these grass roots events for talent identification. It is important for the National Federation that the children race in a safe environment, and it is wonderful to see the whole community get involved to put on the event and provide support to these youngsters.”
The CSA Community Cycling Series gives children who have previously received bicycles through the Qhubeka Bicycle Education Empowerment Programme (BEEP), implemented in partnership with World Vision SA, the chance to show off their speed and sporting prowess.
BEEP is aimed at helping school children to get to school faster and more safely through providing them with bicycles. They commit to a two-year contract that stipulates they must improve their class attendance and performance and once they’ve successfully completed the contract, the bicycles become theirs. Of course, the Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles are used for more than just the school commute, as the first day of the three-day Limpopo CSA Community Cycling Series proved.
Grinning children between the ages of 13 and 18 took part in the first event in the series of races held on the grounds of their secondary schools in Limpopo, each one looking to impress the crowd of spectators that turned out to cheer them on.
“The whole school came out to support them,” says Sarah Phaweni, Qhubeka Executive Director. “The children were so excited! We’re also excited at Qhubeka about this partnership with Cycling South Africa that is looking to develop new cycling talent in communities that previously haven’t had the opportunity because of a simple lack of bicycles and a platform to race. We hope that this initiative will result in new talent being identified and developed. We’d ideally love to see the top boys and girls groomed to race in the National School Series. We’re thankful to CSA for this opportunity to let the kids enjoy their Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles, and for the work they’re doing in the sport of cycling.”
The next two days will many more BEEP participants at two other Limpopo schools competing. Every child who takes part must be riding a Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycle to ensure fairness (these single-speed sturdy steel-framed bicycles are built more for ruggedness and longevity than speed) and must wear a helmet. Participants compete in their various age categories and wear racing bibs provided. On completion of their race (upon handing their bibs back), every child receives a medal, with special medals reserved for those who finish on the podium.
“Although BEEP and our other Qhubeka work-to-earn programmes remain our core focus, opportunities like this, where we get to see the children enjoying their bicycles, are a reminder of how bicycles change lives, and an incentive for us to keep extending our programmes,” concludes Phaweni.