Just four-years ago mountain biking (MTB) was simply an exciting hobby for 18-year old Mia de Villiers, she only jumped onto the saddle sporadically, and seldom took the sport seriously. Fast-track just a few years and she’s a budding MTB rider and a Spur Schools MTB League Rising Star.
“I started riding with my dad, just as a pass time. It was fun and I enjoyed it, especially when I had some free time after netball,” Mia says.
But before long, MTB went from being a hobby to a sport she grew to love so much that she has fast become an avid rider with an “absolute passion” for the sport and a participant of the country’s largest cycling programme – the Spur Schools MTB League. In 2016 Mia scooped 1st place in the Western Cape leg of the race and 5th place in the national final that same year.
“Those were unbelievable achievements that I am still incredibly proud of,” she says.
This matric pupil at Paarl Girls’ High School in the Western Cape has big dreams, and one of them is to participate in the Absa Cape Epic. To-date this upcoming champion has already earned the Western Cape XCO champs title in 2016 and scooped third place at the 2017 SA XCO Champs series.
“I truly believe that if you can dream it, you can do it. It just takes hard work and a bit of sacrifice, which involves early mornings to train, and packing in some extra hours of study time later in the day. The reward is great, so it’s all worth it,” Mia says.
But there’s a lot of work to be done for the 2018 League season, which officially kicked-off in May, and Mia’s already packing-in a rigorous 6-day a week training programme to ensure she stays fit and on top of her game.
“Last year was very difficult, I took a nasty fall and broke my wrist and I was forced to park my bike for a long time. But the accident taught me resilience and to never give up on my dream, which is to one day participate in the Absa Cape Epic,” she says.
Of her rising star status, Mia says she is most proud and adds that it demonstrates that young girls really can enjoy and excel at MTB. At this year’s Spur Schools MTB League, Mia hopes to qualify for the final in Magaliesburg in October, as well as obtain her Western Cape marathon colours.
Ever since Mia started to participate in the MTB League, she has worked quite hard on getting the school involved in the league and now there are quite a few riders from her school participating. They are also working on making cycling an official school sport.
“I am passionate about MTB and look forward to exploring all the sport has to offer under the guidance of my coach, Alex Kruger. I believe that there are great things on the horizon, I just need to work hard,” Mia says.
Spur Schools Mountain Bike Background:
The Spur Schools Mountain Bike (MTB) League was launched by Spur Steak Ranches and Amarider in 2009 and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. This sporting initiative provides regional and national structure in MTB at school level and has stimulated event-planning in many regions where the sport was inactive.
In the past decade, the League has developed exponentially and to date attracts close to 13 000 entries from 500 schools annually. This statistic is expected to see another drastic increase this year as more schools look to be included in what is one of the largest schools MTB programmes in the world.
In order to grow a stable base in South Africa for a fast growing, international competitive sport, the League seeks to introduce more learners to MTB and encourages South African schools to adopt mountain biking as an official school sport.
And while mainly focused at high school level, the League does allow for primary school participation in selected regions to help grow a feeder system for the League.
Through Amarider’s facilitation and hard work by local groups, a sustainable sporting model has been established and continues to work at paving the way forward for school versus school competition.
The Spur Schools Mountain Bike League, with continued support from Spur Steak Ranches has managed to build a strong cross-country racing format, with events taking place in each province between May and September. For more information, please visit www.spurmtbleague.co.za
With editing by gsport