Scholars in the Northern Cape are pumping tyres, checking gears and calming the butterflies ahead of the opening round of the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League on Saturday. Theirs is the first region to kick off the 2016 season that will ultimately see more than 10,000 participants get a taste for the singletrack life.
The 2016 Spur Schools Mountain Bike League season marks eight years of the ground-breaking cycling program, which now proudly includes over 480 Southern African schools. Participation at the 60 nationwide events continues to grow and schools across the region now actively promote mountain biking as a school sport.
The top Spur League schools have invested heavily in mountain biking: many have built dedicated mountain bike trails on school grounds and neighbouring parks, encourage training rides after school, and even boast coaches and team managers.
The Spur Schools League boldly aspires to get “more kids on bikes, more schools in action”. It caters for all ages and skill levels, promotes a fun and social environment and actively encourages first-time riders to get involved. Yet as the League matures a healthy rivalry between riders and schools is also emerging and the top age groups are already racing at a ferocious pace. And so they should – there is far more than bragging rights at stake these days.
The Spur Schools Mountain Bike League consists of 11 South African regions, and includes schools from our African neighbours Zimbabwe, Namibia and Lesotho. The League begins in May and culminates in a glorious weekend of interschool competition at the National Final held at Bekker School, Magaliesburg in early October. Riders are divided into age groups and race laps of a marked track, typically 2-6km in length. Each region hosts three or four events, with the larger regions attracting upwards of 600 participants at their races. Earning selection to the coveted National Final is understandably fierce.
In order to foster healthy competition, promote teamwork and increase participation in the League, winners of each age category, boys and girls divisions, at the Spur League Final receive R10 000 for their school. While Spur’s intention is to reward entrants by contributing to their schools’ educational needs, teams are free to make use of their winnings where they see fit.
An added incentive in 2016 is the opportunity to engage with top local mountain bikers Ariane Kleinhans and James Reid, professional riders for the newly-formed Team Spur. Ariane and James are pursuing an international racing calendar that includes high-profile events such as the Absa Cape Epic, UCI World Cup series and the Rio Olympics. Dedicated to inspiring the next generation of young mountain bike superstars,the pair will be sharing their tips and advice with parents and scholars throughout the year, and joining the best riders at the Spur League Final in the Magaliesburg in October.
The League is facilitated by Amarider, a mountain bike trail advocacy organisation aimed at improving trail opportunities in Southern Africa. “We use the League to introduce young riders to trails and develop their technical trail riding skills, making a safer riding environment and a more enjoyable space,” says Amarider’s director, Meurant Botha. “It is equally important that we build local advocacy capacity, and seeing the regional coordinator teams develop their trail management and event management skills is very exciting.”
The founding sponsor of the League, Spur Steak Ranches has again committed to a bigger and better season. “Seeing the continued growth of the program is something we are extremely proud of. We are committed to supporting the League’s growth into the future,” says Adam Deane, Spur Brand Activation Manager.
For more information on the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League, contact Amarider:
Michelle du Preez