THE RISE OF town­ship cy­cling

Many young­sters have been em­pow­ered as elite sport trans­forms

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­

In­ter­est in cy­cling has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years as more cy­clists turn pro­fes­sional and as a num­ber of young peo­ple in the town­ships have taken to the sport. Cy­cling acad­e­mies, as­sisted by big cor­po­rates, have em­pow­ered many young­sters from his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties. This has, in turn, seen the face of this elite sport trans­form.

Bonga Ngqobane, co-founder of Khayelit­sha-based Bonga.Org Cy­cling Academy, said there was a need for young peo­ple to be given the op­por­tu­nity to be­come in­volved in the sport.

“It is im­por­tant for them to find out if they re­ally want to be pro­fes­sional or just take up the sport as a hobby,” Ngqobane said.

In 2014, Ngqobane (25) com­peted in the Absa Cape Epic ,where he fin­ished 198th out of 1 200 cy­clists.

“It was a great achieve­ment for some­one who hadn’t par­tic­i­pated in such big events and for some­one with no proper train­ing,” said Ngqobane.

Since co-found­ing the academy with his two friends, broth­ers Lubabalo (24) and Khany­iso Bong­weni (26), in his par­ent’s garage in 2014, pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tion An­swer Se­ries has part­nered with them.

How­ever, Ngqobane said his club had not re­ceived any sup­port for events they had staged over the past three years.

His dream is to see cy­cling in­tro­duced in town­ship schools be­cause he be­lieves cy­cling is an im­por­tant phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and a sport that is cru­cial for pupils to learn. Soweto Rocks Moun­tain Bike Academy is also on the rise. Busi Msi­mango, co-founder of the academy, said cy­cling may not have been viewed as a ca­reer choice by many town­ship res­i­dents in the past, de­spite it al­ways hav­ing been part of town­ship life.

“Cy­cling has al­ways been part of my life. I used to ride 20km with my fa­ther ev­ery Satur­day, which made me bond with it,” she said.

Her part­ner, Buhle Mad­lala, said they had brought cy­cling closer to peo­ple who would nor­mally not be able to travel long dis­tances to par­tic­i­pate in big events.

One of the aims of the Soweto-based club is to un­cover hid­den tal­ent.

“When they par­tic­i­pate in our events and win, they gain points that can help them par­tic­i­pate in pro­vin­cial and, even­tu­ally, in­ter­na­tional events such as the Olympics,” said Msi­mango. In Au­gust, they hosted an event that had 40 par­tic­i­pants and had planned to host a big­ger one this past week, where 100 bik­ers were ex­pected to race, but it had to be post­poned due to rainy con­di­tions.

Two prod­ucts of Velokhaya Life Cy­cling Academy, another Khayelit­sha-based academy, Thu­la­sizwe Mx­enge (23) and Mthetheleli Boya (24), will be among the thou­sands of cy­clists who will par­tic­i­pate in the Absa Cape Epic later this month. The event takes place from March 19 to 26. Apart from the main prize for win­ning the Epic, there is also a prize for the first African rider younger than 26 – the Exxaro De­vel­op­ment Jersey com­pe­ti­tion – which car­ries prize money of R50 000, which will go to­wards ed­u­ca­tion as well as a trip to Bel­gium.

Velokhaya board mem­ber Luthando Kaka said the academy was one of the old­est cy­cling acad­e­mies in South Africa – it launched in 2003.

At a na­tional ind­aba in Durban last year, Cy­cling SA gen­eral man­ager Mike Bradley said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had iden­ti­fied 32 acad­e­mies across the coun­try that were sit­u­ated in town­ships and ru­ral ar­eas.

The aim was to help de­velop cy­clists and pro­vide them with the nec­es­sary re­sources, he said.

Re­spond­ing to Ngqobane’s com­plaint that the clubs did not get much sup­port at na­tional level, Bradley said the na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion did pro­vide sup­port, but that it also lacked suf­fi­cient re­sources.


READY FOR THE SHOW Cy­clists from the Velokhaya Life Cy­cling Academy pre­pare for this year’s Cape Epic

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