The annual Cycling Youth Festival took place in Oudtshoorn from 3-5 July 2017 and showcased the talent of young cyclists under the age of 19 competing against riders from different regions in South Africa. The majority riders came from the Western Cape with some from the Free State and a few from the Eastern Cape.
The Youth Cycling Festival was shortened by one day this year to assist regions to cut back on accommodation costs in support of more riders to participate in the Cycling Festival. The format was also slightly changed to enable the riders to have maximum exposure to racing.
Various codes of cycling were showcased for the riders to obtain greater exposure to the variety of cycling disciplines, such as road racing, criterium racing, and mountain biking. The road race on day one produced a high level of racing on the Highgate circuit of 30km. Circuit racing is always a safe option as it is easier to control the traffic and at the same time spectators can follow the race. The Team Time Trial took place in the afternoon and gave the riders the opportunity to compete as a team, something to which young riders are seldom exposed.
The riders participated in a criterium race (a closed circuit of approximately 1 km in length) on day two. Depending on the age category, riders raced for 10-30 minutes, where-after the bell would ring to indicate the last lap. This discipline produced plenty of action without predictions being possible. Although the racing was short – it was fast and intense.
On the final day of the festival all races took place on mountain bikes, with the individual time Trial as the first item over a 2.5km distance. The fastest time of the day was recorded by a U/17 rider with only a very few juniors taking part in the event. The 3 oval track events included a scratch race, short bunch race and an elimination race. The same rules applied for all 3 events, the only difference being it is undertaken on a gravel track with mountain bikes.
The events were highly entertaining and in all age categories racing was highly contested. The riders soon realized that this kind of racing is not all about the fittest and strongest, but also about tactical riding. The Youth Festival is an important part of the development of future cyclists. Skills development and exposure to racing with other riders of the same age is not only important, but essential in their development. The Youth Cycling Festival is structured in such a manner to enable younger riders to watch and learn from older riders.
The event was successfully organized by Eden Cycling, under the leadership of Corné Bence.