– The Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races

‘The vibe, the atmosphere at the Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races – it’s incredible. The races have taken off faster than we ever anticipated,’ says Mike Tippett, project coordinator for cycling development at The Sports Trust, which manages Nedbank Sport Affinity-funded projects.

The Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races were launched this year. In partnership with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport they organised six community cycle races for 2016 in underserviced communities in the Western Cape – from townships on the West Coast to the Boland to the Cape Town metro.

The races take place in the home communities of the 130 development cyclists currently on the Nedbank Sports Trust Development Cycling Programme.

Incredible community support

‘You have to attend one of these races to appreciate the camaraderie, fun, competitive racing and incredible community support,’ says Tippett. People come out in full force and the cyclists are cheered and encouraged all the way.

One of the races was in De Doorns on Youth Day, 16 June, hosted by Orchard Primary, a founding school in the development cycling programme. De Doorns is in the Hex River Valley, a large, scenically breathtaking grape-growing area with widespread poverty.

‘These races encourage participation in communities that would not otherwise be exposed to cycling. The races also help us to identify talent and, very importantly, they give our development cyclists competition goals every six to eight weeks,’ says Tippett.

Two distances were organised for the De Doorns event – a 58 km and a
20 km race. The 58 km road race was seriously competitive with 80 top cyclists from a range of cycling clubs participating. We also had 45 cyclists participating in the 20 km race.


Everyone is invited

The beauty of these races is that community members can get involved in a number of ways – from cycling to marshalling to catering or simply enjoying the day. Everyone is invited and people come from far and wide to be there, including the President of Cycling South Africa, William Newman, who has attended every one of the Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races this year.

In addition to the cycle races through De Doorns, netball and soccer tournaments took place at the school and there were various lifestyle exhibitions, including the Cancer Association sharing information on skin protection, eating habits and lifestyle and the Western Cape Emergency Services demonstrating how to respond in the event of a cycle accident. The race day was a general celebration of sport, life, knowledge and community for Youth Day.


Evolution of the Nedbank Community Cycle Races

The Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races evolved from the Nedbank Sports Trust Development Cycling Programme. Cyclists in this programme are being groomed to participate in the Cape Town Cycle Tour (CTCT) also known as the Cape Argus – the largest timed cycling event in the world.

Each year we equip and train approximately 220 learners in the Nedbank Sports Trust Development Cycling Programme and 70 to 80 of these compete in the CTCT. From this group 20 cyclists form part of our elite team and may potentially be selected to represent Western Province and South Africa.

One of the elite teammembers, Eben Dearling (19), took second place in the 58 km Community Cycle Race in De Doorns. He matriculated from Hex Valley High School in De Doorns in 2015, is a member of the De Doorns Development Cycling Club and is now working at Nedbank in Worcester.


Opportunity to compete all year round

‘While it is a great achievement to have top-achieving cyclists, it worried us that the 130 who don’t qualify for the CTCT weren’t getting the same attention or competition experience. This led to the establishment of the Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races, which offers all our cyclists the opportunity to compete all year round,’ says Tippett.

Since the launch of the Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races, the 130 development cyclists have considerably upped their training, with the older learners cycling 50 to 60 kms several times a week. ‘They realised that they had to improve on their fitness to compete in the community races, which take place every six to eight weeks,’ Tippett continues.

All the development cyclists are equipped with bikes, helmets and cycling clothing. At the community cycle races, bike maintenance and repair teams are on hand to assist the cyclists and to ensure their equipment is working properly.

The maintenance teams will only work on bikes that the cyclists have kept clean. ‘It teaches them about responsibility and we also teach them to have any problems with their bikes, no matter how small, attended to straightaway. It’s a metaphor for all aspects of life,’ says Tippett.


Thousands of learners to attract

In addition to the 200 development cycling participants, there are thousands of learners whom Nedbank and The Sports Trust would like to attract to cycling.

‘Cycling develops discipline and commitment, and it draws young people away from alcohol and drug abuse, crime and gang warfare that many are subjected to in their communities. We strive to develop a healthy and balanced lifestyle,’ says Tippett.


Racing in Kraaifontein

On Women’s Day, 9 August, the Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Race was held in Kraaifontein, an economically stressed, high-crime area near Cape Town where Keesha Manuel (17) and Nikieta Holly (16), two female learners from the host school, Scottsville High, were shot and killed in 2015. The theme of this ride was women and child safety.

The day started with a mass cycle ride of 160 learners of all ages, riding in groups of 50 through the community. The learners were then divided into their age groups – from under 10 through to under 18 – and competed in a 1,8 km circular route through the community, with different age groups completing a prescribed number of laps. It was fast, technical riding and the entire development team of 220, in addition to other cycling clubs, participated.


Incredible atmosphere

‘Again, what an incredible atmosphere, with community members voluntarily coming to the fore and blocking off the roads from vehicles while cheering on the cyclists,’ says Tippett who is rotating the host schools so that each of the development cyclists’ schools, currently 12, have an opportunity to host. This also gives the cyclists an experience of different parts of the province and each other’s home communities, with the Western Cape Department of Culture, Arts and Sport organising the transport, meals and accommodation.

The event on 25 September will be held at Steynsville High School in the West Coast town of Piketberg where cyclists will compete in an 86 km, 50 km, 20 km and 10 km road race, depending on their age, with the under 10 cyclists competing in the 10 km race. ‘This race will celebrate Heritage Day and all participants will receive a braai pack and come together for a braai afterwards,’ says Tippett.

Anyone who wants to try out cycling at these events is encouraged. As Tippett puts it: ‘When we hear people saying that they learnt to cycle at the Nedbank Sports Trust Community Cycle Races then we know we have achieved our goal.’