UCT’s Track Tuesdays – students vs scholars
14 September 2016
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Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, thanks for downloading, I’m Gerald de Kock. For the next 10 minutes we’re going to be talking about mountain biking. So much going on and you just need to scratch around anywhere in Johannesburg, Cape Town anywhere in the country. You’ll find someone with a passion and interest in mountain biking, doing something positive to make a difference to the sport.
Today we’re talking about a level of the sport. We’ve talked about the Spur Schools League before and that sort of bridges that from school to university. The University of Cape Town Sports Department have got together and run something called Track Tuesdays. Greg Christie who is the man who runs this is with me now. Greg, tell us a bit about it, it sounds quite interesting. Is this every Tuesday?
Greg Christie: Yes, so every single Tuesday, meeting at the track and it’s from 5-6pm.
GDK: Clearly you’ve got your own dedicated track at UCT?
GC: Yes, when the Cape Epic came through the forest at UCT last year, we kind of looked at it and thought; well, there’s this massive forest here that no one is using, why not build a track there. Over the course of the next few months then we built a track.
Then the second it was done we had people asking: Can we race here? What type of racing can we do? Then we got an offer from one of the parents from SACS saying: Why don’t we do a high school racing series? So, from there, it kind of picked up and the start of this year we launched Track Tuesday.
GDK: How many riders generally take part?
GC: We run league races and non-league races. Non-league races generally about 20-30 and then league races would be 30-40 riders rock up.
A link between school and varsity riders
GDK: That’s fantastic. You say it’s schools and students, is that the plan, to get them racing each other?
GC: Yes, what happens is that we’ve often lost a lot of really talented riders from high school. They end up going to other universities around the country to get away from Cape Town. Maybe, to get out of home. So we thought, how can we bridge that gap so that they might use UCT?
They come and ride Track Tuesdays and they race against the students at UCT. Then that way they kind of form a friendship with them. Know the people when they come there. So rather than going to university where they won’t know anyone, they go to UCT. They already know half the members there, they race against them. So we think it just forms a nice bond between high school and university students.
GDK: The track, you said you just quickly built one. That takes some work and I’ve seen some of it, you’ve got some nice YouTube videos there. So if you are interested, go and download, go to YouTube and look at Track Tuesdays, you’ll find it there. Tell us about the building of that course?
GC: A guy called Shaun Havenga from Trail Troops, he contacted last year’s Chairman and said: I’m keen to build the track. He gave us a really good rate and we’d seen some of his other projects and they were really good.
So we thought, why don’t you do that. Our club sponsor is Private Client Holdings, they put some money in and the club put some money in. Over the course of 2-3 months we built this mountain bike track and we’ve been adding to it since then. When it first started it was 800m and now it sits at about 2km.
GDK: What sort of technical features has it got?
GC: We’ve got drop-offs, switchbacks, rock gardens, jumps, bridges, anything you’d see on a normal cross country track. We’ve got in a 2km loop with A lines and B lines, depending on what you’re more comfortable with.
How does the series work?
GDK: Every Tuesday, is it a series? Do guys earn points and you’re eventually going to have a champion?
GC: Once a month we host a league race and we have a B league standing and an A league standing. At the end of the year we will have a year winner.
GDK: What are the chances of that being one of the school boys?
GC: Pretty high! When we started the racing the school kids were a bit worried thinking look at these varsity students. We’ve seen them, they race elite on the weekends, how are we going to keep up with them? Within five minutes we had three or four of the school kids leading the race and that kind of dispelled the rumour that varsity kids would be stronger. The school kids are really strong.
GDK: What schools are involved at this stage?
GC:At this stage regular and big number attendees are Fish Hoek, Westerford, Saxon, Reddham and then we’ve had a few riders from Rustenburg, Springfield and Bishops who come through every now and then.
GDK: The students from UCT, how active is your mountain bike club and team at UCT?
GC: We’re a club that offers road, mountain biking, everything. So on weekends we host club rides, so probably once or twice a month we’ll have a dedicated mountain bike club ride. But we’ve also got a Facebook group for every club member where they can put a message on there and say: Listen, I’m keen for a mountain bike ride, is anybody else going to go out at 4:00pm? Everyone in the club really mountain bikes and road bikes, so it’s just a community of people who ride their bikes and mountain biking is one of the disciplines we love.
Mountain biking as part of Inter-varsity
GDK: How did the club do at the Inter-varsity?
GC: We actually had probably our best university champ since 2011, we managed to get second place overall with one of our riders. Then second place team, just behind Stellenbosch. But in a field that’s probably the most competitive it’s ever been, with people like Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns, we were really ecstatic with that result.
GDK: It’s an interesting sport because there’s so much focus on rugby and cricket and the high profile sports. But do you find that mountain biking and I suppose cycling is starting to find a little step on the ladder there?
GC: I definitely think so. I know that in university students, the move away from the traditional school team sports. People are moving towards more outdoor type activities, like mountain biking, hiking and running. When Tokai opens up again towards the end of the year, I think we’re really going to see another big step up in numbers and mountain biking. But as it stands, there’s definitely a big move towards mountain biking and road riding, just in general, definitely amongst the student population.
Come rain or shine
GDK: Let’s get back to Track Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, winter and summer?
GC: Every Tuesday, winter and summer. We’ve got a committee of six members and so where we can, we make sure that at least two members are there. But so far this year we haven’t missed a single Track Tuesday, where the schools and varsities have both been active. If the schools have a holiday, we don’t have it and if the varsity has a holiday we don’t have it. But every other Tuesday, which is pretty much the school term we have Track Tuesday, we haven’t missed one.
GDK: You’ve got fairly decent numbers, but how big could it get and how big would you like it to get?
GC: What we really want is a place where every kid from the Southern suburbs, who enjoys riding their bike, whether they like racing at the top level of juniors or if they’re just getting into it. We want Track Tuesday to be a place where they can come.
Have some fun, meet new friends and develop their skills. Develop their speed on a track that really does offer everything. We’d love it to reach 50-60-70 riders a week because it’s really not a lot of admin to do. They sign the indemnity form, they pay the R10 or whatever the race fee is on the day and they can go and race. We want it as big as it can go.
GDK: What is the race fee?
GC: We sell permits, you buy a permit and then you don’t get charged at all for non-league races and then R10 for a league race. If you don’t have a permit then it’s R10 for a non-league race and R30 for a league race. So it’s really not expensive compared to your usual race fees.
GDK: I know timing and all of that, is there a record time around the track?
GC: There’s a Strava segment –
GDK: Who holds that?
GC: At the moment, if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s Luke Evans. It’s called the UCT XE loop. I might be wrong, but as far as I know, he does hold it at the moment.
GDK: It doesn’t necessarily have to come from the school, for the kids to ride, am I right? Parents can bring their kids and race?
GC: Of course, so it’s open to anyone from Grade 8 to matric, absolutely anyone can race. It doesn’t matter if the school doesn’t bring you, if you’ve got a kid who is keen on mountain biking, you’re more than welcome to bring them through, no problem at all. You don’t have to represent your school, but that’s the age group we cater for.
How to find it
GDK: Tell us exactly where they should go to find the track?
GC: If you go to UCT upper campus, which is kind of the main campus that you see from the M3, you enter and just keep heading up until you can’t get up anymore. You get up to the top ring road and then there’s a sign that says ‘tennis courts’ you follow that sign and you just keep going up. Eventually you get to a dirt road and the track is right there.
GDK: It sounds like a fantastic initiative. Do you ride it?
GC: I do ride it, I can’t ride the one section, it’s a bit tricky, so I take the B line there. But if you’re looking for, it’s impossible to go easy on the track, no matter how fast or slow you are. Given its nature, you’re either coasting and doing the tricky stuff downhill or you’re going up a really steep climb. It’s a track that tests you, but it’s a track that absolutely everyone can ride. From complete beginners to expert cross country riders.
GDK: How many laps are you doing in that 20 minutes or so?
GC: You’re looking at about four laps.
GDK: Fantastic, well done and let’s hope you get more schools and perhaps pique the interest of some other universities and you can have an inter-varsity at some stage on your track.
GC: We’re actually looking at hosting an event towards the end of September with raising funds for Velokhaya. So we’re hoping to have some Stellenbosch university students there, some school kids. People literally from all age groups coming to race, to raise some funds Velokhaya and enter our track.
GDK: Making a difference with mountain biking, thanks very much Greg.
GC: Awesome, thanks for having me.
GDK: Right, that’s Greg Christie from the University of Cape Town’s Cycling Club and they’ve got something called Track Tuesday. As I said, go to YouTube, have a look at Track Tuesday and maybe email Greg on?
GDK: In between his finance and accounting fourth-year studies, he’ll reply to you and you can go and take part in something that’s really exciting down in the Western Cape. Thanks for downloading, thanks for listening to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. Until next time, take care, ride safely… cheers.