Competition was fierce at all the regional events as only the top schools and individual category winners in each region could qualify for the finals. The top 436 mountain bike riders representing 84 schools will converge at Bekker School this weekend of 8-9 October for what is expected to be an action-packed final.
The Spur Schools Mountain Bike League was launched in 2009 as a joint initiative between Spur Steak Ranches and trail advocacy group Amarider with 900 riders. Over the years the League has facilitated various rider development programmes, seen a definite increase in the number of female riders, as well as logged an increased number of primary schools supporting the league. This, as well as the record number of entries this year, proves that the League provides a powerful platform for promoting mountain biking at school level and beyond and is achieving its goal of getting more kids on bikes.
Gauteng has seen explosive growth both in participating schools and riders and is currently the largest league in the country with more than 80 schools, close on 3 000 riders competing and regional events drawing more than 600 entries.
The League runs on the Olympic Cross Country (XCO) lap-racing format whereby participants, separated into age categories, complete a set number of laps of a short mountain bike course. Lap distances are between three and five kilometres. A large number of league participants competed against each other in the 2016 XCO Championships, adding even more suspense to the upcoming Spur Schools MTB League Finals.
The hotly contested finals will once again see schools as well as provinces competing for the coveted Spur Schools MTB League trophy and top spot on the provincial log.
On Saturday, 8 October the schools will go head-to-head with the top 26 riders in each category scoring points for their team in an effort to secure podium positions in the National Inter-schools Final. Menlo Park High School dominated the 2015 Spur Schools Mountain Bike League finals, winning the boys, girls and mixed team trophies.
Registration opens at 07h00 for invited riders only and racing starts at 08h30 with the sub-junior boys followed by youth men 15 years at 09h20 and youth men 16 years at 10h00. All the girls will race together at 10h45 with a minute between category starts and the junior men will wrap up the day’s racing at 11h30.
Spur Steak Ranches is offering a R10 000 contribution to school teams that win their respective age categories at the National Inter-schools Finals. “Seeing the continued growth of the program is something we as Spur Steak Ranches are very proud of and we decided to offer this bonus to foster healthy competition and promote teamwork between riders and within schools, as well as increase participation across all skill levels and abilities,” said Clare Rainey, Spur Brand Development Manager.
The League is affiliated to South African Schools Cycling (SASC), which in turn is affiliated to Cycling SA as a development initiative particularly geared to create a platform for schools to compete against each other and, in doing so, raise the profile of the sport at school level.
On Sunday 9 October schools will team up for the SASC Interprovincial Competition whereby the best 10 results will be tallied to crown the best province. North West Province, in spite of its size, is the current defending provincial champion.
Registration will open at 07h00 and racing will commence at 08h30 with the sub-junior boys. The youth men (15 and 16 years) will race at 08h50 followed by the girls at 09h30 and the junior men setting off at 10h15. Prize giving will be at 11h30.
This year has also seen the introduction of Team Spur’s James Reid and Ariane Kleinhans, who play the important role of encouraging League riders to follow their dreams by showcasing the reality of becoming sponsored athletes. Riders will have the opportunity to interact with Team Spur at the finals this weekend.
According to league director Meurant Botha of Amarider, participation at local events has shown a steady growth as schools accept mountain biking as a recognized sport – some going as far as employing coaches and managers to oversee teams and even building dedicated tracks on school grounds to encourage after-school practice and interschool sports days.
“Although there are many kids finding their competitive edge on their bicycles, the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League’s focus is still to encourage more kids on bikes, more schools in action. It is important for all children to enjoy participating whether only starting out or having participated for a couple of seasons,” concludes Botha.