Sport brings communities together, and there is no better way to immerse oneself into sport and begin improving lifestyle than to take up cycling. Cycling however has long been considered a prestigious sport, with an often hefty price tag associated to not only a bicycle, but for all the necessary accessories as well.
In many communities in South Africa, this places cycling as a sport out of reach for a large number of the population, where those who may own a bicycle treasure it as their primary form of transport.
To promote the development of the sport of cycling at school and grass roots level and in turn breaking down the barriers to entry throughout KwaZulu-Natal, Cycling South Africa together with the KwaZulu-Natal Sport and Recreation created a blueprint for development cycling in the province. KZN Cycling Development – under the auspices of KZN Cycling – was formed and the roll out of the plan to reach each of the province’s 11 districts got underway in April 2017.
With the first year having just closed out at the end of March 2018, the statistics report has conceded a significant number of learners that have passed through the programme. Since the end of July 2017, 293 development clinics and training activities have been hosted across all 11 districts with 16 278 learners having participated.
The programme was devised to provide opportunity to cycle to a broad base to compete at varying levels, structured to offer development clinics (exposure of cycling to a wide base of learners to determine whether it was viewed as a sport or recreational activity); grassroots races (staged on a flat field with a demarcated course where they could race against their peers); and district events (for learners who had already developed and progressed in skills development to race against their peers from other districts). In total, 22 grass roots races and 11 district races were staged.
For the system to become independent, individuals from all the districts were upskilled and efforts were placed on staffing, cycling hubs, infrastructure and equipment, training courses, the construction of a skills park, and high performance and training programmes and rider support.
The development programme went far beyond simply developing aspiring young cyclists and incorporated a full spectrum of training including courses to train coaches, mechanics, administrators, safety officials, event organisers and officials. A total of 594 people were trained in these elements and the courses were deemed a success.
Fundamentals of High-Performance (HP), training programmes and rider support was also rolled out, including a coaching camp, MTB coaching course, Track and BMX HP courses; as well as supporting already identified talent whereby Sithembiso Masango attended the 2017 UCI MTB World Championships in Cairns, Australia. Other support included advanced training at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle (SUI) for Manqoba Madida; UCI Coaching Course attendance in Cairo, Egypt, by Travis Goveia; and UCI Training Camp attendance for Sithembiso Masango in Cairo in the lead up to the African Continental MTB Championships in April; as well as rider support in all disciplines to attend provincial and national events.
The cycling hubs that were established in the nine districts throughout KwaZulu-Natal assisted in driving the programmes within their respective districts with the support from KZN Cycling staff. The hubs not only became the custodians of the equipment provided, but also extended the network with other entities such as schools and cycling clubs for activities to take place at their venues.
Once storage facilities at each hub was established, a number of items were provided and safely stored. Bike trailers, designed and manufactured to carry 14 bicycles, were supplied to each hub, as well as 80 single speed Avalanche Charger bicycles, 70 BMX bicycles, 180 helmets and spares for all the cycles for training purposes and participation in the activities that were planned. Competition level bicycles were also purchased and supplied, including 10 mountain bikes, 5 road bikes, 20 track bikes and 20 BMX bikes.
A skills park was completed at Cascades MTB Park in the uMgungundlovu District, where skills and bike handling abilities can be developed and/or fine-tuned by those utilising the facilities.
By developing the young cyclists of KwaZulu-Natal, a huge impact is made on increasing the talent pool and discovering our future champions in the province. With the hope of this model producing sustainable success in KZN, it can then be rolled out into the other eight provinces.