As the sport becomes a growing phenomenon in South Africa, even among kids, here’s what a young novice rider needs to know ahead of their first race …
Mountain biking (MTB) is not plain sailing – braving tough terrain on a narrow mountainous trail requires great skill and perseverance to reach the finish line. Cycling coach, Morné Bester and owner of Pro Cycling Coaching says determination, learning how to move around in a pack and proper nutrition are crucial during an MTB race. A professional cyclist and winner of the Cape Town Cycle Tour in 2000, his advice is sound.
Training is key
Bester says MTB racing is “tough on the body” and kids require “talent and fitness” to reach the finish line. “Without the will to do well, you won’t do well. Train regularly, eat well, be dedicated to the sport and you’ll succeed. It’s not an easy sport. It’s very strenuous, but riders learn as they race; that’s the best way build experience and to perform. Frequent racing and constant effort is what it takes. Any pro-rider will tell you that,” he says.
How to train
A rider’s training programme is essential; it should be rigorous and include a trio lineup. Bester says recovery and tempo rides are part of a rider’s training programme and during these sessions riders engage in slow and medium efforts on the bike, while hard-quality rides involve a “bigger and harder effort” and according to Botha is fast and rigorous riding. One day before a race, riders are advised to engage in recovery rides to prepare the body optimally. Rest is imperative and in the lead-up to a big race, at least one rest day should be included in the week before.
Ben Puddu, Head of MTB at Paul Roos Gymnasium says, “It’s all about good balance. Our MTB team at Paul Roos Gymnasium comprises at least 40 riders in the Spur School MTB League and we advise kids to incorporate one day of rest in their five-day training programme,” he says.
According to Bester, during training experts should focus much of their attention on “learning how to move within the group and staying ahead” through frequent training and knowing their bodies. “Structure those training sessions well. Riders need to know what to do and when to do it to help them perform. But be careful not to do too much at a time, that can set you off-course. The only way you’ll know your body is through training,” Bester says.
What makes a difference?
Henning van Wyk, owner of Pedalworx, a Somerset West bike shop, says the bike makes a huge difference. “A rider’s equipment is very important. A good quality bike will determine how smooth the race will be. And the helmet and riding shoes will ensure maximum comfort and protection on race day, which riders need in order to reach the finish line successfully,” he says.
The Spur Schools MTB League
Spur Steak Ranches and Ama Rider launched the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League in 2009, as an initiative to provide regional and national structure in the sport at school level. It also aims to stimulate event planning in the many regions where the sport is not active at school level. The league is about introducing more learners to bikes and encouraging South African schools to adopt mountain biking as an official sport. With these simple aims the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League has built a strong cross-country racing format, with four events taking place in each province between May and September. The League is the biggest high school cycling programme in South Africa and the largest feeder system for mountain biking in the country. Visit Spur Schools MTB League to find out what events are on the cards or how to enter, and get League school results here.
Source and image: Positive Dialogue