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20 Jan, 2017

Spur League Continues to Inspire

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Continuing our schools cycling series, this month we chat to Deon Steyn, organiser of the still-growing Spur Schools Mountain Bike League, which is contributing hugely to the growth of cycling in schools. – BY KYLE DEELEY

A record 2016 Spur Schools Mountain Bike League season, that saw more than 10,500 kids competing across South Africa, culminated in a nail-biting final at Bekker School in Magaliesburg on 11 October. With 438 mountain bike riders representing 84 schools, the racing was once again fierce as the youngsters chased top honours for their schools. Reigning Gauteng League champions, Menlo Park High School, rode off with the boys’ team as well as the mixed team titles, and also claimed the coveted title of National Spur Schools Mountain Bike League Champions. The girls’ team title went to Potchefstroom Gimnasium, with Menlo Park taking second place.

With the inter-school champs out the way on the Saturday, the following day saw the 2016 season wrapped up with the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League Inter-Provincial Championship, which saw the top riders in each of the competing regions join forces for their provinces. With only the 10 best results scoring points, defending champs North West Province successfully held on to their title with 242 points, narrowly beating Gauteng (240) and Western Province (224).

MAN WITH A PLAN
The Spur Schools Mountain Bike League is organised under the auspices of South African Schools Cycling (SASC), which in turn is affiliated to Cycling SA, and serves as a development initiative to create a platform for schools to compete against each other and raise the profile of the sport at school level. The league has been running for 16 years, and for the past 11 years the man in charge has been Deon Steyn, President of SASC, who organises the Gauteng league events, oversees the leagues in other provinces, and is in charge of the national finals. Deon is based in Krugersdorp and works as a Project Manager for Siemens Midrand, but his passion for cycling dominates his spare time – he is also one of only seven official Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) commissaries in Africa, and was recently appointed chief commissaire for the 2017 ABSA Cape Epic event.

Deon says he has taken great pride in watching the league grow over the past decade. “At my first schools event in Gauteng in 2005, there was an amazing turnout of just 43 riders. I was hoping for at least 50, but I didn’t quite reach that target. Now, 11 years down the line, the field in that particular event has grown to nearly 700 riders between the ages of 13 and 18, and we now have about 80 schools in the Gauteng league alone, some of them with up to 80 riders. We have both big and small teams in the league and for the past few years I have also taken it upon myself to enter riders from the Diepsloot Mountain Biking Academy, the Tshwane Urban Riders as well as Sedibeng, as our way of giving back to the community,” says Deon.

The Spur Schools League now has an official board in seven out of nine provinces, and Spur has been the national title sponsor for the past eight years. The provincial leagues run from May to September, and October sees the National Final take place, just before matriculants start their final exams, and Deon says the youngsters really embrace the competition. “To kick off this year’s Gauteng league season, we decided to have a captain’s function where we handed each of the team captains a captain’s armband to be worn during the series. That was a major hit!”

DEON’S DREAM
According to Deon, one of the big positives of the school leagues is the great support from the parents of the kids who participate, but he says the sport still faces some obstacles. “The schools cycling league is registered under CSA as a cycling category on its own, but trying to affiliate cycling as a school sport is a bit of a challenge. The Department of Education and the Department of Sport and Recreation are not as easy as one would like, making it a really tough process. I am currently busy establishing a schools cycling committee, and although the focus is on mountain biking, I am looking at starting a school track cycling league as well. My goal is that I want cycling to be recognised as an official school sport and I will not stop trying until I have succeeded!”

The next Spur Schools MTB League season will start in May. For more information go to www.bikebeat.co.za or visit the Bike Beat Facebook page.