BHC: Cycling Project Changes Lives

Bottelary Rural Cycling team (left to right): Danika Adams, Corné September, Audriana Januarie, Layla Moses, Adrianne Oersons, coach Jaco Venter, Jeshwin May

The Bottelary Hills Cycling Development Initiative, launched in 2022 in collaboration with Cycle2Ride supported by the EduInnov8 Foundation is having a marked impact on the lives of children in the rural community with the first Bottelary team competing in the Western Cape Schools Cycling XCO League.

The team of six riders was selected during the Cycle2Ride (C2R) short track league hosted at Bellevue Wine Estate and Century City where they competed on single speed BMX bicycles donated by Rotary Stellenbosch in 2020. WAWWA Foundation has generously donation of 10 mountain bikes to the training and preparation of these promising development riders to give them a competitive chance in the provincial competition.

The Bottelary Hills Renosterveld Conservancy (BHRC) was founded in 1992 to conserve critically endangered Renosterveld fynbos as well as launch projects that will better the lives of the people living and working in the area. In partnership with C2R, Bottelary Primary School, Vlottenburg Primary School, St Vincents Primary School, Froggies Aftercare at Devon Valley Primary School, Anna Foundation and Pebbles Project local youths are given the opportunity to explore cycling as a sport.

Cycle2Ride (C2R), established in 2020, aims to use cycling as a medium for physical and social development. “Through cycling we can create opportunities for families and communities to interact and build relationships. By sharing the experience of development, we unlock new talent and create opportunities for social development between communities. Expanding the horizons of our riders through sponsored equipment and even entries provide new life experiences and inspiration to aspire,” says C2R founder Jaco Kotze.

Weekly coaching sessions by professional cyclist and former SA National Champion, Jaco Venter enables learners to hone their cycling skills. Training aims to improve handling skills, develop the ability to cycle in groups and near other riders, improve gear selection, establish a level of fitness and endurance that will assist in riding trails and increasing the riding time, setting goals and training with a purpose as part of a team.

According to Bernadette November, Life Skills & Extra-Curricular Manager at Pebbles Project the impact of learners who forms part of the Bottelary Hills cycling development project and competed in the short track series and Western Cape Schools Cycling XCO League, was significant.

“Learners expressed feelings of pride and accomplishment for being chosen to represent their organisation in such a prestigious event. Many of them did not anticipate the magnitude and scale of the competition. Although they acknowledged the challenges they faced, the overall experience left a lasting impression on the learners, instilling in them a sense of achievement and resilience as they navigated the demanding competition.”

The short track format is the ideal entry-level competition for beginner riders, especially young female riders. The races range from eight minutes for the 7-year old riders to 12 minutes for the high school learners, lap distances range from 800m to 1km are not technical with less than 20m elevation per lap. Due to the low level of elevation and low technical demands of the track, riders with single speed bicycles can be competitive.

Training on the single speed BMX bikes continues throughout the year at the various schools involved for the next short track series that will commence in September.

Cycle2Ride is hoping to duplicate this development model in other rural areas. “Our vision is to establish a national rural league that will provide a development platform through which riders will have the opportunity to compete on a national level. This will only be possible if we can partner with organisations to assist with the correct gear and training,” concludes Jaco Kotze.

According to Christel Liebenberg, manager of the BHRC the positive impact of this initiative is palpable. “The weekly training sessions with Jaco gives the kids something to look forward to, while opportunities to venture out to Century City and further for events opens new experiences that our rural children don’t often get to enjoy.  We are strict about the fact that learners need to be as dedicated to school attendance and their education.  Cycling also helps with balance, co-ordination and general wellbeing in a fun way.”

Should you want to become involved through funding coaching or transport, donating bicycles, gear or food or any other way, please contact [email protected] or on 083 4480810.

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Wine Lands Trails is an initiative between Wine Lands Cycling Club, Paarl Trails, Banhoek Conservancy, Wellington (Wild Boar) Trails, Franschhoek Trails, Elgin Valley Trails, Bottelary Hills Conservancy, MTO and Stellenbosch Trail Fund to consolidate access to these trail networks under one regional permit.

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