Mountain bikers enrich Knysna kids’ lives
Mountain bikers in this year’s RECM Knysna 200 stage race will have a chance to enrich themselves and the lives of underprivileged local children when they roll through the Garden Route town from June 13.
Organisers of the three-day race are raffling off a R50 000 unit trust prize courtesy of the title sponsor RECM, R20 000 of which will be donated directly to the Knysna Sport School.
One of the 350 riders will walk away with the balance of the investment and the knowledge that he or she has given disadvantaged children a chance at a better life through the school’s sports development programme.
The programme, which introduces children from previously disadvantaged communities to a variety of sporting codes, has already paid dividends in the field of cycling.
Alumnus and former cycling coach Vernon Moos is the race beneficiary’s biggest success story to date, after rising through the ranks and finishing second in the solo category at last year’s RECM Knysna 200.
According to school director Jan van Wageningen, Moos’s passion for the sport has had a huge impact on many other youngsters, such as up-and-coming talent Ian Jantjies, who first joined the school’s safe cycling programme at the age of 11.
Now 18, the Rheenendal resident has progressed from competing in shorter 10km to 15km events to long-distance races under the guidance of Moos and local coach Willem Pompies.
Pompies noticed the youngster’s determination to succeed when he showed up for training every day from the farm on which he lived regardless of the fact that he did not have cycling shoes and rode barefoot for the first three or four years.
“That’s where I realised I wanted to be a cyclist,” said Jantjies.
“I didn’t even have a bike then but when the school opened I saw it was offering cycling. I proved myself.”
Jantjies took on his first stage race, the Garden Route 300, alongside current coach Paulus Sigonyela in February this year. He will be a solo entry for the Knysna 200.
“Doing a 300-kilometre race wasn’t that bad for me because I often train hard,” he said.
The Grade 12 learner, who attends Knysna Secondary School, puts in at least two hours of training every afternoon before hitting the books in the evening.
“Discipline is something that cycling has taught me and I work to a programme.”
He said it would be an honour to pursue sports coaching and management studies after school.
“At the moment, he is taking mountain biking very seriously as a sport and, with his talent and hard training, he often finds himself on the podium in our local races,” added Van Wageningen.
“We see him having a bright future at the Sport School, as he already assists with our junior cycling programme in Rheenendal, helping with outrides and mentorship of the younger riders.”
RECM Knysna 200 race organiser Louise Wilson said the event was proud to have a long-standing relationship with the school and share in its successes.
“They do brilliant work in helping our local kids to make healthy choices for their lives and it’s great that we can have a positive impact on our community by working together.”
KSS staff, coaches and parents are actively involved in route marking, marshalling and manning water points for the race.This year, some exciting twists have been added to the route. The first stage starts at 9am at the Knysna Elephant Park.
On day two, spectators can enjoy an exciting race within a race as riders take on a 2.5km climb from Quinta da Montanha to Krisjan se Nek.
Last year’s Ultimate Queen winner and multiple Cape Town Cycle Tour champion Anriette Schoeman will return to defend her title there. The public must be at the Krisjan se Nek viewing point by 8.45am.
The final stage starts at 8.30am at the Harkerville forest station – home of the famous Red Route. Spectators wanting to catch more mountain biking action are encouraged to be at Harkerville in Garden Route National Park, opposite the Garden of Eden, from 9.30am. The event finishes at Thesen Harbour Town.
CAPTION: Mountain biker Ian Jantjies, who is a product of the Knysna Sport School’s development programme, will be participating in the RECM Knysna 200 stage race from June 13 to 15. The school is the official beneficiary of the three-stage Garden Route race. IMAGE SUPPLIED
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