The Spur Schools Mountain Bike League (SSMTBL), now in its eleventh year, is growing from strength to strength reaching new record proportions during the 2019 season with 18 757 riders competing in 57 events across South Africa.
According to founder and co-ordinator, Meurant Botha of AMARIDER, the league is achieving its goal of getting kids on bikes. “The support of national and provincial Schools Cycling South Africa (SCSA) structures, regional co-ordinators, parents and teachers has been a key factor in the growth of the league and achieving our aim of getting kids to ride and race bikes. With the continuous involvement of Spur as founding sponsor, we have managed to grow the league from an initial 900 to nearly 19 000 riders,” says Botha.
Botha further ascribes the success of the SSMTBL to the ongoing development of new mountain biking tracks around the country in an effort to take the sport to the people with a strong focus on schools. Currently 60% of all SSMTBL events are being hosted on school grounds.
“It is important to establish good quality tracks, especially in outlying areas where travelling long distances to compete remains a problem for many kids. This was also a consideration when we decided to relocate the finals to Wagpos High School just outside of Brits this year. With the finals done and dusted, Wagpos inherits a custom built track where their riders can train and improve their skills,” states Botha.
The SSMTBL is in essence a grassroots cycling development program and will work closely with governing body SCSA – an associate member of Cycling South Africa – going forward to further grow the organisation and assist with initiatives geared to fully develop mountain biking as a school sport. “The fact that school teams are growing bears testimony to the fact that the sport is growing. Garsfontein for example started with three riders and now have a school team of more than 70 riders winning a national event. Considering that more than 80 schools were represented at the SSMTBL finals is a good indication that the league has the potential to explode.”
The 2019 SSMTBL finals also saw the introduction of an updated rule set to manage and govern the competition with the introduction of a consequence matrix to enable officials in making fair decisions in an environment that is highly charged with adrenaline, stress and emotion. In addition all competitors signed the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport “I Play Fair Say NO! to Doping” pledge at the event.
According to SSMTBL ambassador, Allan Hatherly South Africa has one of the most solid and structured cross country schools leagues in the world that provides an unparalleled platform for kids to race on following a proper qualification process. “The sport is clearly healthy and growing, but what I find most inspirational is the fact that the kids are clearly enjoying the event, making friends and showing good sportsmanship. As an Ambassador to the league I got to do provincial rounds and assisted with skills training and it is great to see how kids developed this past year,” states Hatherly.
Spur Group Sponsorship & Events Manager, Khakhi Diala concluded that the 2019 SSMTL final was a perfect culmination of a super exciting season. “Spur honours family and togetherness and it was rewarding to see the camaraderie amongst the riders and families enjoying the bike village. It was good to see Soweto MTB Club, Tilelo High School and the Tshwane Urban Riders amongst the teams at the finals as part of our development program. As founding sponsor of the League, Spur is invested in grass root cycling in South Africa and signed on for the next nine years to ensure that the program goes from strength to strength,” said Diala.
The decision to introduce a primary schools division to the SSMTBL in 2012 is clearly paying dividends with more 51% of participants in this year’s league representing primary, creating a strong feeder to the high schools program.
For more information on the league visit www.spurmtbleague.co.za.