The KwaZulu-Natal Cycling development programme has been running well and it has been full of cycling activities over the past few weeks.
Providing the cyclists the opportunity to experience the diversity of cycling, track cycling is identifying some young and fresh talent on the oval. This Track High Performance (HP) Group attended local racing events like the KZN Grand Prix and Interprovincial, which are instrumental in preparing them for the demands of racing and ultimately for 2018 National Track Championships in December.
In the districts, training clinic programmes continue in full force where identified talent is steered toward the higher performance programme. Exposure to regular competition further prepares them for the racing environment.
As experience increases, so does the participation in events like the Spur Schools Races that were held at Hilton College and Waterfall College. Progress at competition level is immediately visible and new riders were given the opportunity to race with their experienced peers, thus increasing the depth of the squad with each race. A large group of 21 riders competed in Waterfall and 29 riders in Hilton with podium performances in Hilton from Aphelele Idabeni (third Girls U14) and Kusasehle Ngidi (third Boys U17).
Staying in the dirt, the Mandela Day Marathon events in Howick saw 96 riders compete from seven different districts across KwaZulu-Natal – ILembe, eThekwini, uMgungundlovu, Amajuba, uThukela, uMzinyathi and Harry Gwala – where the race provided the riders with a chance to compete against other districts and learn valuable lessons about competition.
Chief Mandla Mandela joined the festivities and offered some inspiring words to the participants.
A further 28 riders who form part of the higher performance programme took part in the main races. Talented young Ngidi took on the main 42-kilometre race and finished 11th overall and second in the Boys U17 race! The achievement was well celebrated as it was Ngidi’s first longer distance race as he is used to the short course cross-country races. Aphelele Idabeni finished third (Sub Junior Girls) and Asanda Mhlongo achieved a podium place in the Sub Junior Boys race.
On the tarmac, a select group of seven riders made up the team to race in the Absolute Motion Crit Series in Hilton. It was their first team event and first crit race and while displaying strength and performance, their lack of tactical experience cost them the top step of the podium; despite this, the riders were strong enough to get Siyande Gumede in a position to finish third in the U17 category.
KZN Cycling Chief Operating Officer Alec Lenferna says that the breeding ground for competition level riders is at the training clinics, where talent is identified from the onset. “Training clinics take place in all 11 districts in the province and our KZN Cycling district officers carried out 88 clinics which saw a total of 4 052 youth involved during August alone. More opportunities for the learners in each of the districts is not only beneficial for them, but it also allows the higher performance coaches to be able to identify a greater number of riders that can be drafted into that parallel programme.”