GET SADDLE SAVVY
PREPARING FOR YOUR MTB RACE
MOUNTAIN BIKING (MTB) IS ANYTHING BUT PLAIN SAILING. BRAVING TOUGH TERRAIN ON A NARROW MOUNTAINOUS TRAIL IS CHALLENGING AND REQUIRES GREAT SKILL AND PERSEVERANCE TO REACH THE FINISH LINE. AS THE SPORT IS GROWING IN SOUTH AFRICA, ESPECIALLY AMONG YOUNGSTERS, HERE’S WHAT A YOUNG NOVICE RIDER NEEDS TO KNOW AHEAD OF THE FIRST RACE.
Cycling coach and owner of Pro-Cycling Coaching, Morne Bester, says determination, learning how to move around in a pack, and proper nutrition are crucial. “Without the will to do well, you won’t do well. Train regularly, eat well, be dedicated to the sport and you’ll succeed,” he says.
The Spur School’s MTB League is underway and Bester, a professional cyclist and winner of the Cape Town Cycle Tour in 2000, says MTB racing is “tough on the body” and young riders require “talent and fitness” to reach the finish line in the National Final in Magaliesburg, Gauteng, in October.
“It’s not an easy sport. It’s very strenuous, but young riders learn as they race – that’s the best way to build experience and to perform. Frequent racing and constant effort is what it takes. Any pro rider will tell you that,” he says.
Bester says there’s a simple answer to becoming an experienced rider: Learn how to ride optimally, stay within the group, but always look for the opportunity to pull ahead. “But equally important, structure those training sessions well. Riders need to know what to do and when to do it to help them perform,” he says.
A rider’s training programme should be rigorous and include a triple line-up, which comprises of tempo, recovery, and hard quality rides. During recovery and tempo rides, riders engage in slow and medium effort on the bike, while hard quality rides involve a “bigger and harder effort”. One day before a race, riders are advised to engage in recovery rides to prepare the body optimally. Rest is also imperative, and in the lead-up to a big race, at least one rest day should be included during the week before.
Ben Puddu, Head of MTB at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch, says that MTB cycling is all about good balance. “Our MTB team at Paul Roos comprises at least 40 riders that compete in the Spur School MTB League, and we coach them to incorporate one day of rest in their five-day training programme,” he says.
Henning van Wyk, owner of Pedalworx,a bike shop in Somerset West, says the bike plays a key role in your performance. “The quality of the bike will determine how smooth the race will be. And other equipment like a helmet and riding shoes will ensure maximum comfort on race day, which riders need in order to reach the finish line successfully,” he says.
High school pupils participating in the Spur Schools MTB League know that the competition is tight and you need every advantage. With 493 participating schools comprised of over 10,500 entries taking place over 46 regional events across nine provinces, the League is the biggest high school cycling programme in South Africa, and the largest feeder system for mountain biking in the country.
For more information on when the next Spur Schools MTB League events are due to take place or how to enter visit www.spurmtbleague.co.za or www.trailtag.co.za for League school results.