144 learners from some of KwaZulu-Natal’s most rural areas were welcomed to further develop their cycling skills when they participated in the successful KwaZulu-Natal Youth Development Camp, which was held at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg from 11-14 July.
The learners have predominantly been involved in the province’s popular District Development Series, which has been driven by KZN Cycling over the past two-and-a-half years and has seen a surge of interest in cycling participation in the 11 provincial Districts.
With the fundamentals under their belt through previous participation in the District Development Series, the learners embarked on the two-day training camp activities, which introduced the various disciplines of cycling, such as Track, Road, MTB and BMX, using all the facilities within the Alexandra Park complex. Adult minders – who were imparted with coaching, administrative, event, and bike maintenance skills – accompanied learners so that they too could take their learning’s home and further grow the sport of cycling in their immediate regions.
Representing the Department of Sport and Recreation – uMkhanyakude District, Ms. Nokukhanya Zondo attended the event from the northern-most part of KwaZulu-Natal with 36 learners from Jozini. In order for the learners to be “selected” to attend the Youth Development Camp, they had to participate in a local league race. The road to growing cycling in the region, like with most of the Districts, hasn't come without its challenges.
Initially, the children “earned” their bicycles through the Wildlands Trust by planting trees. “The youngsters were interested in cycling but did not know how to get started,” said Zondo. “So we started some cycling clubs in Jozini. Apart from some local races, like the Bell MTB Series, I coordinate the TT Leagues within the ward, which not only helps me to identify riders for the group for next year, but it also ensures the sustainability of the project so that they are not only training when there is a race, but that they are continuously participating.”
There are currently four clubs based in Jozini, with an aim of starting three more clubs next year in the areas of Umkhanyakude. “There is a lot of interest in the area and people are starting to take notice of cycling, but our challenge is that most of them don't have bicycles.”
Another aspect that requires attention is learning the dynamics of cycling and most importantly, nutrition. “I find that when they race, they don’t understand how to pedal in mud, for example. I also had an instance where one rider didn't drink and didn't know how and when to drink and stay dehydrated. These aspects require some focus – the youngsters are keen to learn and they want to do this,” she said.
Enxolobeni Primary School Headmaster, Mr Theo Zobolo, stated early in the Development Camp “when all the fun is over, I am going to ride a bicycle here before I leave”. And that is what he did.
Bringing nine children from the Ugu District on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, Mr Zobolo was keen to see what the various cycling disciplines entailed. Four young men from the Burry Stander Foundation accompanied him.
“Before getting here I was very passionate about this,” said Mr Zobolo. “We are a school in a very deep rural area, close to the Lake Eland Game Reserve, where such activities are taking place. We believe that our children have a good time because of the resources that are available to them. Therefore the skills that they are obtaining here is more important.”
Mr Zobolo explained how they embark on extensive cycle training every Friday at their school now, and that the importance of the exercise was that it was forming part of life orientation, which is a subject.
“In that locality we are looking forward to the sports, particularly cycling fanatics, who may eventually become world players who may represent us one day. The passion that is in our team as educators of that school cannot be compared to any other that I may think of, with the mind of developing cycling,” he said.
Mr Zobolo acknowledged the legacy of the late Burry Stander and was appreciative of the efforts of a local business owner and Mandie Stander’s Burry Stander Foundation for their support to the community.
“The very late Burry Stander was once the most important cyclist in Ugu and once raced in the Lake Eland Classic (45-kilometre Classic) and our children did not have bicycles but they had a liking of the sport. Dura Cycles then sponsored some bicycles for our children to participate with and everybody was so inspired by that wonderful move. The cherry on top now was when Mandie Stander presented 15 mountain bikes to the school last year.
“We wish Cycling South Africa long life so that they can reach and touch those communities where the very same sport is in its infancy, if it is even on their map. It is a very inspiring sport. We believe that when we lie down, then the youngsters must take the baton and move on. For that reason we need to develop a community, particularly the citizens of South Africa, that will ensure that they keep the candle burning.”
Nhlanhla Thabede, founder of the Ladysmith Development Cycling Club in the uThukela District, attended with 31 boys, six girls and another three adults. Having completed a UCI Level 1 Coaching Course in Durban with the assistance of KZN Cycling, Mr Thabede has been driving the cycling project in his District, and particularly in Ladysmith.
“I feel so glad about what I’ve seen, from the first day it was so nice, and my kids were so happy and they were doing the best,” said Mr Thabede. “I can even see that we are going somewhere right now, I can really see it. Today has been such a good day for me. On the Track, Road, BMX and Mountain Bike, the coaches are telling me that my kids are doing the best. I really am glad about what is happening. I am really happy. I wish that this type of camp can happen again soon.”
The success of his learners stems from his perseverance to continue driving change through introducing cycling into his community, and by finding that the starting point was to get the younger generation interested. In doing so, Mr Thabede hopes to alter the mindset of motorists in his community towards cyclists on the road.
Feeling proud of what has been accomplished and of the progress within his community, Mr Thabede makes reference once again to the UCI Level 1 Coaching Course that he attended. By learning from the best, he has in turn been to impart his new-gained experience and knowledge to his young cyclists, and the proof is in the pudding.
“I learned a lot from that course and I went with that information to my District and I delivered to our development riders. They are the best now and I’m not shy to say that, and I’m proud of it!” he said. “What we got from that course made us the best District in the province.”
The Burry Stander Foundation’s Mr John Cele played an integral role in the Youth Development Camp, and delivered a Mechanic’s Course to the learners and adults. His interest in cycling was also raised when he heard of the tragic news of Burry Stander’s death.
“I knew that I had to get involved in cycling in 2013 when I heard about Burry,” Mr Cele said. “From then on I learnt how to ride a bicycle. As time went on, I became part of the Burry Stander Foundation.
Cycling SA hosted a UCI Mechanic’s Course in August 2015, which took place in Pietermaritzburg during the time of the hosting of the CAC (Confederation of African Cycling) Forum.
“It took approximately the whole week to learn all of the skills,” said Mr Cele of the course attendance. “I then got my certificate and came back home with it. I then used the experience that I learned at the Burry Stander Foundation, and taught the kids how to fix bikes, how to set gears and change a tyre and all of that. Now I received the invitation to attend this Youth Development Camp and teach others how to do the basic stuff. It’s a way forward for me and it’s a great honour for me to be able to do this, I am honoured and so blessed.”
Cycling SA General Manager, Mr Mike Bradley, was delighted with the outcome of the Youth Development Camp. “It has been absolutely spectacular. We’ve had 144 learners out here, all out from their different areas learning different skills on bikes, which all ties into general bicycling skills. The BMX is really lively and so is the Track cycling and it has been really great to have all four disciplines going simultaneously.”
Looking ahead at the prospects of hosting more camps like this one, Mr Bradley said: “Another big camp like this is definitely on the cards as an annual event, but there’s no reason why this can’t be done once a month. The big costs involved are obviously the transport and accommodation, but after that the rest of running this programme works very well.”
Event coordinator, Mr Alec Lenferna, thanked KZN Cycling for presenting them with volunteer coaches and for the helpers who ran the various cycling disciplines. “The coaching of the different disciplines was undertaken by local coaches and each discipline had a head coach and they were assisted by two assistant coaches each and all of these people gained valuable experience and skills which will allow for them to be utilised in coaching and development scenarios throughout the province in the future,” said Mr Lenferna.
“Apart from the head coaches for road and track (Jimmy & Andrew respectively) all other coaching staff came from the Durban Green Corridor project and the Giba Academy. These people were joined by John Cele who came up from Port Shepstone and is the mechanic who maintained the bikes as well as giving the bike maintenance classes. A very nice element of all this is that John had attended the UCI mechanics course that took place during the CAC Forum in 2015 courtesy of the KZN Department of Sport & Recreation sponsorship and Gabi Ngcobo who was the MTB head coach had attended the UCI coaches course at the same time, also courtesy of the KZN sponsorship.
“Phakamani Radebe was the head of the BMX elements and he too is a UCI qualified coach from a previous course – it is great that these gents are now able to pass on their previous learning’s to a new generation of coaches and interested parties,” he said.