Although initiatives like the recent Oudtshoorn Youth Festival provide valuable opportunities for young cyclists, the industry has a long way to go.
That was the opinion of Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy general manager Sipho Mona at the conclusion of the event last week.
“Things like the youth festival incorporate important elements of life skills,” he said, adding that it opened the minds of riders to different cultures and creeds.
“It also allows them to ride competitively in their age categories and gauge where they are in terms of performance.”
Ona Dolopini and Loyiso Fulu were two of the academy’s five riders who went home with medals.
Mona said Fulu, who finished second in the junior road race for boys, was on the right track and the academy would continue to monitor the 16-year-old.
“We’ve been monitoring his performance and we’re now going to focus even more on that by regulating what he eats, drinks, how he trains and everything like that.
“That’s how we got the likes of Nicholas Dlamini where they are now. We’ve been using the same principles for a number of years and it seems to be working for us.”
Dlamini, who recently won the King of the Mountains title at the Baby Giro, is just one of the top South African names who was moulded by the academy.
“At the end of the day Loyiso, Nicholas, Luthando Kaka and Songezo Jim all came from Velokhaya, and we’re still going to produce more,” said Mona, emphasising they had achieved this with minimum assistance from Cycling South Africa.
“We have paid to get those guys to participate at events like the youth festival. We’re lucky, we’re at an advantage because we have the money to do this, but only because we’ve worked so hard for it.”
The 33-year-old said he knew many other clubs were simply not in the financial position to do the same.
He said this was where Cycling SA needed to step in, and, at the very least, subsidise clubs.
“The development of cycling has a long way to go. We have all these structures in place and people with roles to play, but nothing is happening.
“We need to act, rather than talk.”
Mona first joined the academy as a rider more than 10 years ago and said it was disappointing to see what little progress had been made since then.
“In terms of the platform of cycling itself, not much has changed. I feel that as much as cycling is the new golf, we’ve taken our foot off the pedal a bit.
“There are definitely more people getting into cycling, but there is less competition, simply because there seems to be fewer competitions.”
Cycling SA’s Bonga Ngqobane was at the festival with his Bonga.org Cycling Academy.
“Events like these are very important for the development of riders and transformation of the sport,” he said, bemoaning the lack of continuity of such events.
Ngqobane said while he felt the event had been well attended, there was a smaller field compared to previous years.
“I think this is due to the fact that a number of districts were not represented and also a lack of equipment.”
View here for more news and results from the Oudtshoorn Youth Festival.