Hundreds of underprivileged children will have the opportunity to discover the elite sport of mountain biking, thanks to a unique partnership between the Garden Route Rocky Mountain 300 and the Knysna Sports School.
As the official beneficiary of the three-day race, the school received over R40 000 worth of bicycles, cycling kit and cash from organisers on behalf of participants last week.
Generous overall winners Delaney Impey and Ady Enthoven (Team Craft) donated their prize money plus their lucky draw prize of a Rocky Mountain 29-inch mountain bike as part of the package, while third-placed lady Nina Hind (Team Agave) also handed over her winnings.
Race coordinator Louise Wilson of Garden Route Events said organisers and sponsors had been overwhelmed by the riders’ generosity.
“The event couldn’t have ended in a better way. Making a difference is what it’s all about.”
She was quick to stress that it was not a charitable donation but rather the extension of a mutually beneficial relationship with the school’s cycling development initiative.
“When we say community development, we mean it in the real sense,” said Wilson. “The guys are involved at all levels, from cutting tracks to marking routes, marshalling and helping with registration.”
In return, Knysna Sports School (KSS) was given special permission to use the route for training purposes and its head of cycling, Vernon Moos, received a sponsored entry, she said.
“As a product of the cycling programme, Vernon is a great role model and hero for the kids. Many of the children have never ridden a bike, let alone 300 kilometres.”
According to Wilson, KSS provided a lifeline for underprivileged children from all schools in the area without access to sporting facilities.
“We’ve taken them under our wing because cycling is our passion. It’s quite an expensive and elitist sport, so we’re enjoying the opportunity to let them experience it.”
She said the Knysna area provided the perfect environment for mountain biking.
“We need to raise funds to get more local kids off the streets, onto bikes and into the forest.”
School head Charles Smith said the donation of cycling shirts, shorts and shoes had been gratefully received and would be shared with children at the school as well as those who are part of the outreach programmes in the Hornlee and Rheenendal communities.
“This will have a major impact on the kids and give them a sense of belonging. They’re no longer just riding around in ordinary shirts and shorts – now they’re real cyclists.”
Smith said the school’s outreach activities also extended to Brackenhill and Ruigtevlei. “We take youngsters from about age 12 through to senior level and introduce them to the basics of cycling.”
He said they were extremely grateful to the race, its sponsors and participants. “We only survive on public goodwill and that has been the case for the 21 years that we’ve been in existence.”
According to Wilson, the three-day race had not only benefitted the school but also the Knysna community as a whole.
Additional pointsmen were recruited from the Nekkies and Rheenendal communities by marshals’ manager Yoliswa Dyanti and paid for their services.
Wilson said the race had received good support from the local municipality and business community, including accommodation providers, security services, catering companies and cycle shops.
Entries for the RE-CM 200 in June are now open. For more information, visit www.gardenrouteevents.co.za.