A record 300 riders representing 60 schools from across the country as well as Zimbabwe and Namibia competed in the 2013 Spur School Mountainbike League finals at Bekker School in Magaliesburg this weekend.
After a hard day of racing in chilly and windy conditions, Gauteng series winners Waterkloof, proved that they were the best in the country logging 108 points to walk off with the coveted Spur School Mountain-bike League mixed trophy. Potchefstroom Volkskool, who finished second on the Gauteng log secured second place nationally with 98 points. Western Cape series winners Montana, who has showed consistently good form with podium positions at the national finals for the past three years, took third place with 94 points – just pipping Centurion who finished with 93 points to the podium.
Waterkloof further cemented their standing by winning the girls category with 66 points, followed by Hellenic in Zimbabwe second with 60 points and Centurion in a very close third with 58 points. The team from Paul Roos Gymnasium successfully defended their title as best boys’ team for the third year running with 100 points, followed by rivals Grey College in Bloemfontein with 92 points and newcomer Midstream College impressing in third with 82 points.
The well-designed 4.9km track, which meandered through the hillside school grounds, offered riders the opportunity to really test their technical skills, strength, speed, fitness and endurance. Races were run on the same lap-racing format as Olympic mountain bike competitions with a strong emphasis on making the races accessible to all in terms of route difficulty and race distance. Sub-junior boys completed three laps, the youth boys rode four laps and the junior men had to battle it out over five laps. The girls did one lap less in their respective age categories.
Although mountainbike riding is an individual sport, the Spur School Mountainbike league aims to promote cycling as a team sport with points determined on a 26 point sliding scale. The points of the top five individual boys counted for the overall schools log, while the top three individual girls determined the fate of their school and for the mixed the points of top three boys and top two girls were calculated.
Keegan Clark of Lydenburg High School took first place in the sub-junior boys in a time of 00:37:20 with Joshua de Freitas of Parel Vallei High School second in a time of 00:38:50 and Francois Annendale of Grey College in Bloemfontein third in a time of 00:39:06. The sub-junior girls category was won by Danielle Strydom of Potchefstroom Gimnasium in a time of 00:29:40 followed by Stephanie Grossmann of Windhoek second in a time of 00:30:46 and Mariette Kemp of Woodhill College third in 00:31:33.
Herbert Peters of Windhoek won the Youth Men 15 years with 45 seconds in a time of 00:47:05 and logged the fastest lap of the day in 11 minutes and 24 second. Brandon van der Berg of Volkskool Potchefstroom finished second in 00:47:50 and Murray James of Uplands College was third in a time of 00:50:19. Tristan de Lange of Windhoek impressed last year with his convincing win and continued his run with a first in the Youth Men 16 years in a time of 00:46:09 – also logging 11 minutes and 24 seconds. Paul Roos’s Matthew Lombardi finished second in a time of 00:47:32 followed by Hartebeespoort High School’s Johan Hartzenberg in third in 00:48:58. Unfortunately Franco Pelser of Lydenberg, who was lying in podium position was disqualified due to feeding zone irregularities, but still finished the race in good spirit.
In the youth girls’ category it was, Frankie du Toit of Wartburg Kirchdorf School in KZN who took line honours with a convincing lead of nearly five minutes in 00:40:36. Sabrina van Wyk of Epworth High School in KZN was second in a time of 00:45:47 and Saffron Vosloo of Pretoria Girls HIgh finished third in a time of 00:46:40.
As always the junior men’s category provided riveting racing with Nicholas Popich of Waterkloof getting off to a speedy start when he creamed his first lap in 11 minutes 28 seconds. The power climbs sections of the course suited Nicholas’s strong powerful style. Carlo Marzoppi of Kearnsney College in KZN, who favours the fast road sections manage to catch Nicholas in the second lap and pass him midway through the third lap. Gauteng series winner Dylan Rebello from Rand Park High proved why he is considered one of the country’s top cyclists when he clambered his way from a back of the field starting position to push Dean Morgan of Paul Roos out of third place. Although Rebello made good ground, he just could not catch Poppich and finished third in a time of 00:57:53. Second place was secured by Popich in 00:58:22 and Carlo Marzoppi of Kearnsney College first in 00:57:53. The boys agreed that the track was really nice and catered to every cyclist’s strong points. Carlo preferred the fast road sections, Popich the short power climbs and Dylan the long climbs.
Spur Steak Ranches sponsors travel and accommodation for the top six riders in each qualifying school as well as the top oval rider in each category. A maximum of 12 riders are allowed per team. Each finisher scores a point for their school with additional points allocated to the first 25 riders in each category.
The league, which was launched in 2009 as a joint initiative between Spur and Amarider, has exceeded all initial projections in terms numbers and reach and has grown from 1600 entries and 21 events in 2009 to last year’s 5300 entries from 42 events.
League co-ordinator Meurant Botha of Amarider attributes the steady 45% growth of the League to the ongoing and hands-on involvement of Spur Steak Ranches as well as the efforts of a team of dedicated regional organisers and school co-ordinators.
“We are really happy with the steady growth of the league in terms of participants, more regional events and new tracks being developed in collaboration with schools and municipalities. The figures for 2013 have shot up to more than 7500 entries, while the level of competition has improved significantly,” says Botha.
The Spur School Interprovincial Competition concluded the weekend’s racing on Sunday. Eight provinces as well Namibia and Zimbabwe donned their provincial colours and the scene was set for fierce competition. Gauteng walked off as winners of the coveted floating trophy with a total score of 248 with North West Province second with 209 points and last year’s winners, Western Provence in third position with 202 points. The team from Lydenburg walked off with the spirit trophy.