Shining star: Vuyolwethu Nkomo, a pupil at Matthew Goniwe High School and a member of the Elite Development Cyclist Programme, is ready for the challenge. Picture: SUPPLIED
Shining star: Vuyolwethu Nkomo, a pupil at Matthew Goniwe High School and a member of the Elite Development Cyclist Programme, is ready for the challenge. Picture: SUPPLIED

A record 130 cyclists from The Sports Trust Development Cycling Programme including 15 cyclists from the Elite Development Cycling Squad, will be competing in the 2018 109km Cape Town Cycle Tour.

"Our cyclists are super-keen to get out there on March 11. It’s such an exciting time and I think we are going to see fantastic times and results," says Mike Tippet, cycling development manager for The Sports Trust.

"We didn’t realise how soon this programme would produce talent like this, in addition to positively influencing these young people’s lives."

One of the stars in the elite squad is Vuyolwethu Nkomo, a Grade 11 pupil at Matthew Goniwe Memorial High School in Khayelitsha, who finished a brilliant fourth in the under-19 time trials at the South African National Road Championships in Oudtshoorn in February.

"I was motivated to start cycling at my school in 2014 after watching cycling races on TV," Nkomo says. "I tell myself that there is no one who can stop me from what I am doing because I love it and I am doing well at school.

"Cycling helps me to achieve good results because you need to balance your education. I train after school and then I do my homework. When I finish school I want to continue with my studies and do competitive cycling."

Vuyo Mavuya (centre) is another exceptional elite development cyclist. Picture: SUPPLIED
Vuyo Mavuya (centre) is another exceptional elite development cyclist. Picture: SUPPLIED

Nkomo is looking forward to the 2018 Tour. He rode it in 2016 and found it tough.

"I am looking to do my best time ever as I have been training a lot and I’m well prepared for it. I want to do two-and-a-half to three hours and finish in the top five or 10," he says.

Nedbank Sport Affinity has funded The Sports Trust Development Cycling Programme since it started in 2005.

The programme has taken cycling into 12 under-resourced Western Cape high schools and communities. Each year, between 180 and 220 young development cyclists participate in the programme.

"Our 2018 Cape Town Cycle Tour entrant numbers are a dramatic increase on the 2017 figure of 90 development cyclists.

"The cyclists have put in a huge amount of training over the past year and we will be so proud to see them riding in their new Nedbank Sports Trust kit," says Gerry Raftopoulos, the marketing manager of Nedbank Sport Affinity.

"We have put a lot of effort into the training, nurturing and recruiting of learners and we are very excited about the exponential growth of cycling in these underresourced areas in the Western Cape, including a growing number of girls, with 32 riding in this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour.

"We work closely with the principals and educators at our participating schools to promote and manage cycling, and several have done an outstanding job." Tippett says there has been a vast improvement in the performance of the cyclists since the Elite Development Cycling Squad was created in 2017. Its members have represented Western Province.

"We have developed a winning formula for our elite squad that includes nutrition, mental development and professional input from the Sports Science Institute of SA," he says.

We have put a lot of effort into the training, nurturing and recruiting of learners and we are very excited about the exponential growth of cycling in these underresourced areas in the Western Cape, including a growing number of girls, with 32 riding in this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour.

"We still have more to achieve in the training programme, but we are nearing a standard where we are aiming for podium placements in major races in the near future."

In preparations for the Tour, there has been more emphasis on structured training including shorter, faster, intense rides and clocking up mileage.

Nicholas Dlamini, who won the overall King of the Mountain title in the 810km Tour Down Under in Australia in January, has been mentoring the elite development cyclists. He hails from Khayelitsha and the cyclists idolise him and take in everything he says about training, racing and mental attitude.

Vuyo Mavuya is another exceptional elite development cyclist, also in Grade 11 at Matthew Goniwe. "I initially started cycling with my friends just for fun after I fixed an old bike that had been discarded at my school," he says.

"Before this programme, cycling was generally not taken seriously where I live in Khayelitsha because we didn’t have sponsors or proper bikes.

"I met Mr Mike [Tippett] in 2016 and he invited me to join the development cycling group. I was given a nice bike and I saw that I could really do it.

"I love cycling and I have been training very hard, doing interval training, sprint training and long distance every day except Mondays.

"It’s better to ride in a group, because it is safer — in our area we are at risk of being hijacked – but sometimes I need to ride alone and then I ride very fast!" he says.

Mavuya has done the "pretty tough" Cape Town Cycle Tour before and is aiming for a place in the top five or 10 in 2018.

"I’m very serious about cycling," he says. "After I complete school, I would like to be a professional cyclist and study further. I would like to go and study sports management in Joburg as there are a lot of opportunities in cycling."

Bashir Madhi, who teaches maths at Matthew Goniwe, is coordinating and mentoring the cyclists. He will also take part in the Tour. "I’ve done it twice with our cyclists; they leave me far behind, but I encourage the slower ones to complete the race," Madhi says.

The development cycling programme has a significant influence on the pupils’ lives and broadens their life experience, he adds.

"Many of the learners at our school are from very difficult, underresourced backgrounds and this programme gives them the opportunity to compete in races all over the Western Cape, and to meet and interact with different people and cultures.

"We see such a change in attitude, in the way they conduct themselves and in their schoolwork when they are part of this programme," Madhi says.

"So many more of our learners now want to cycle, but we don’t have more bicycles. We want to try and get some more and also some second-hand spinning bikes sponsored or donated for training, as the conditions on the road are dangerous, and these will help them to put in extra training when they are preparing for major races," he says.

Julian van Wyk, 13, from De Doorns is the youngest cyclist in the development squad competing in the 2018 Cape Town Cycle Tour. He is in Grade 7 at Orchards Primary School and has excelled at cycling since receiving his bike in 2017.

"I feel very good; I have trained very hard and I am very excited to ride in the Tour. I’m going to do well," he says.

Orchards Primary teacher Quinton Verrooi will be riding with the development squad in the 2018 Tour — his eighth.

"The cycling programme is mainly for high schools, but our school has several very keen cyclists in Grade 7 who will join the high school programme next year," he says.

"Nedbank and The Sports Trust have done an incredible thing with this programme and they are such a support to us. We are also putting in effort from our side to try and raise some money to buy more bikes.

"In our community there are many negative influences, whereas cycling influences our young people so positively and that is my passion."

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