Gauteng Schools Cycling’s first love is seeing kids on bikes

Photo credit: Memoirs in Pictures - Elma Nel

“Gauteng Schools Cycling first love is seeing kids on bikes. Our second love, is to see kids progress in the sport. Part of Schools Cycling South Africa’s (SCSA) objectives are to grow and develop school learners skills and create many opportunities for learners. SCSA focus for 2020 will be to introduce even more learners to cycling as a School Sport and to ensure the sustainability, SCSA will train Team Managers, Commissaires and School Coaches.”

Learners must first fall in love with cycling and learn proper skills through the assistance of qualified coaches at their respective schools. Then comes the fun part…..taking part in XCO races (Cross Country Olympic). Learners are not only restricted to riding Schools races. As with any sport, Regional events pave the way to Provincial events, National events and ultimately, International races. An enormous gap between the learners involvement from School level to Provincial was identified. Skills ability and exposure to Provincial XCO courses were highlighted as the culprits. This is where Gauteng Cycling and Gauteng Schools Cycling came up with a workable solution. Gauteng Cycling have committed to prepping the courses for the Provincial XCO races, three weeks in advance. This will allow Schools to go to the respective courses during the teams regular training sessions. With the assistance of the School’s qualified coach, riders will be able to section the technical parts of the course and learn the required skill. For the not so adventurous, there will be less technical B lines that offer much lower risk to riders. The onus is on the rider, the coach and also the parent to ascertain whether or not a rider is skilled enough to ride the A line. There is no shame in riding a B line at a Provincial race, it boils down to a tactical decision by a rider,” –

Gauteng XCO Series #1 and #2

Gauteng Cycling started the XCO season with two development league races. These races offered newbies an insight into competitive XCO through gradual exposure. League #1 on the 18th of January was wet and muddy whilst League #2 on the 1st of February, certainly upped its demand on the riders with 40 degrees of heat by midday. Thanks to this initiative, the two league races saw a 40% increase in Schools riders taking part in the events.

With the first Provincial Cup race taking place on the 22nd of February, we look forward to seeing even more Schools newbies to Provincial XCO (anyone can ride, riders do not have to qualify to partake). The girl’s categories have seen a notable increase in numbers. Having a course ready well in advance certainly benefits the girl’s confidence.

The Junior Men field did not disappoint with 33 riders lining up in 40 degrees of heat. With the first league race they rode only 4 laps, albeit in the rain with lots of mud. League #2 was a step up with 6 laps, in full sun and dust. A group of 4 riders (Matteo Damilano, Antoni Lit, Jaydon Terlouw, Aaron Heyneke and Kian Kruger) broke away from the rest of the field after the first lap. As the laps progressed, the group of 5 started spreading out. Matteo Damilano took the win only 10 seconds ahead of Jaydon Terlouw, with Antoni Lit finishing in third place a minute behind the two leaders. In the Junior Women, Karla Stumpf took the win after slipping out in the first league race and loosing to Natalie Long.

The Youth Boys and Girls made for interesting races especially with the new first years moving up into the category. These races were the perfect stage for the first years to set new paces against the second years. The Nippers and Sprogs went out guns blazing and as adorable as can be. The Beetge siblings, Sage and Tanner dominated their respective categories.

 SA MTB Cup Series #1

The Provincial League development races certainly helped our riders in their preparations for the first National SA Cup race held at Mankele this past weekend. Gauteng riders claimed a total of 9 podium positions:

Three Golds: Matteo Damilano (Junior Men) ; Tanner Beetge (Sprog Boys) ; Sage Betgee (Nipper Girls)
Two Silvers: Hendre Schoeman (Sub Junior Boys) ; Sven Etseth (Nipper Boys)
One Bronze: Karla Stumpf (Junior Women)
Junior Men & Women (podium of top 10) Aaron Heyneke 5th ; Kyle du Toit 9th ; Kathleen Baker 10th

The Junior Men and Junior Women races were certainly the highlight of the day. The Junior Men started off with 45 of the top XCO riders in the country. The whistle went off in the scorcher of the day with temperatures rising well over 35 degrees. Five laps certianly tested the riders endurance and stamina. A group of 5 riders soon broke away from the rest of the field and this is when the real race started for the top podium positions. Matteo Damilano (GP), Aaron Heyneke (GP), Matthew Lochner (WC), Hugo Hahn (Namibia) and Daniel Kotze (FS) constantly swopped positions with Matteo setting the pace for several laps. On lap 5, Matteo made a break-away from Matthew who in turn left Hugo and Daniel fighting it out for 3rd and 4th. Aaron suffered a small fall and dropped back to 5th place. The finish was not short of excitement, screaming and cheers with Matteo taking the win and Matthew coming in second place. Daniel and Hugo had a spectacular sprint finish with Daniel just nipping 3rd place.

In the Junior Women, Karla Stumpf rode a consistent and steady race. This being her first National XCO race, Karla went out with one objective: to ride her own race and have fun in doing so. A brilliant performance, Karla kept her pace and worked her way through the various technical sections without any glitches finishing third overall. Not bad at all for a first timer to the National XCO events.

Tanner and Sage Betgee dominated their respective races coming in first places, well ahead of their competition. True champions in the making.