May 20, 2014 (Halifax, NS) – The conditions couldn’t have been better for the first XC race of the season! The course was bone dry, the sun was shining, and the temperature stayed in the mid-teens for the event. The dry course was a bit of a surprise considering the length of time it took for the snow to clear from the woods this spring and all the wet weather we’ve been having. The 160 rider turn-out was amazing for both the fun of having so many competitors out on the course, and as a confirmation of the trend of increasing participation we’ve been seeing for the past couple of years.
It is worthy to shed some light on the fact that there were at least 45 riders in the noon race under the age of 19. This is not counting all the young kids that did the 11:00am race. This may not seem significant at a glance, but it was not too long ago that the entire youth representation at a Provincial race would be 4 to 8 riders.
The development of youth in cycling faces many of the same challenges as all other sports in Nova Scotia, but have some that are particularly unique. One of the greatest challenges is actually having people aware that an excellent cycling scene exists in Nova Scotia. Those of us who have kids in other sports have all experienced the surprised look when other parents learn that our kids actually compete in an organized manner on their bicycles. The second challenge is that cycling does not have a identifiable facility like hockey, paddling, gymnastics, soccer, ski and many other sports to serve as a logical destination to both learn about the sport and enroll their child. The third challenge is that cycling for youth in Nova Scotia requires extensive involvement of the parents, since it is not nearly at the level where it can be considered a drop-off sport.
There has been much effort by many people to solve these three challenges at times with great success, and other times as a good learning opportunity. The education about the sport, the identifiable landmark, and easing of parental involvement to a manageable level have all been proven to be able to be addressed at the Club level.
A tremendous tool for the introduction of cycling to young riders and education of parents has been the various Short Track Race Series that take place all over the province. There has been huge efforts in the past to establish BMX tracks in Nova Scotia to serve as the intro to cycling for kids, but for various reasons these tracks were never able to be constructed. The next best solution has been to simply 2nd a location where a 2 to 4 minute loop can be laid out using ?flags and tape and set up the race format with as many laps as the kids can do in 20 minutes for the small kids and 30 minutes for the bigger kids. Every racer on the CJRT credits getting the love of competing on their bikes from Short Track. While the kids are racing, the opportunity is there to educate the parents on the sport of cycling.
If one looked around the field at Victoria Park before and after the race, it was apparent how clubs have been able to help with the parental involvement. There were young riders all together in groups under the banner of the many clubs now having youth teams. This helps with sharing rides to events and training sessions. It also helps in sharing the various knowledge each family brings to the group, to share tasks and help each other out if someone happened to forget something. I was happy to learn that another of the metro bike shops is planning to start their own youth team with a dedicated coach. I won’t spoil the reveal of which shop that is yet!
Victoria’s Secret was an outstanding kick-off to the season and a huge motivator for the remainder of the 2014 calendar! Hopefully we’ll keep seeing more young riders in team jerseys and t-shirts as the season progresses!