The PPA Academy has been a driving force in developing junior road racing. As part of their endeavours, they’ve given six racers a chance to race in Europe.
One of the most important factors in youth development is ensuring that your young racers gain experience competing at the highest level… and this why the PPA Academy exists.
To offer promising young road racers a chance to compete overseas, in 2016 the Academy created a cycling bursary, awarding R25000 each to six top junior riders to enable them to race in a European country of their choice. Candidates were selected via the PPA Spring and Summer League, with top racers in the under-18 and under-23 categories identified through their league standings.
This year’s recipients were Abdul-Muttalib Sauls, Dániyal Matthews, Nicol Carstens, Alex Parsons, Rocco King and Devin Short. Five of the six chose to race in Belgium, with Short opting to ride in Spain.
Short joined the Disgarsa junior team, and achieved some impressive results. He took fourth place in the Saint Jose Luis Junco, a Spanish national race; and impressed at the Vuelta al Besaya, the biggest junior tour in Spain, finishing fourth overall on the GC and second for the ‘most consistent rider’ jersey, missing the top spot by only one point. He also won a one-day race, the Trofeo Santiago.
But results weren’t the most important part of the experience. The Belgian contingent found life tough, having to adjust to competing two to three times a week in races as long as 140km. But they still enjoyed themselves, and had some eye-opening moments. Nicol Carstens had what he calls a ‘life-changing’ ride, when he trained on the last 50km of the Paris-Roubaix route. “It inspired me,” he says. “It made me dream of winning Paris-Roubaix one day.”
All the young riders gave positive feedback, saying they’d enjoyed their experience; and all spoke of a marked improvement in their cycling abilities.
While international exposure is the main aim of the PPA Academy, it doesn’t end there. The Academy also offered 13 riders the opportunity to attend a three-month mentorship programme at the African Sport Academy, where they received guidance in life-skills training, career education, performance analysis, and strength and conditioning.
There are plans to expand the Academy in the near future. In addition, the Academy is in talks with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa about establishing a high-performance programme for junior cyclists.