By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Burry Stander’s legacy lives on through the inspired strides his family are making in developing the next wave of star South Coast mountain bikers.
With all his ground-breaking success on the track, what widely went unnoticed throughout Stander’s trail-blazing career were his developmental and charitable endeavours.
The iconic mountain biker, who tragically passed away after colliding with a taxi during a training ride in Shelly Beach on 3 January last year, was passionate about ploughing back into the sport that made him a global phenomenon.
As a proud South Coaster, Stander would join local mountain bike club Bundu Bashers on their training rides whenever he spent time at his Umtentweni home.
He happily interacted with the local riders, who ranged from young beginners to weekend warriors, and often offered them sage advice.
The two-time Olympian insisted to be viewed as ‘one of the guys’ instead of being put on a pedestal and shared his insight and expertise with riders of all ages and skill levels across the world.
Given his passion to grow the sport, Stander’s family fittingly named development as one of the cornerstones of the Burry Stander Foundation, which was established soon after his untimely death at the age of 25.
Following Stander’s example, his family have taken a hands-on approach and have – with the support of national and KwaZulu-Natal government – taken a group of eight promising youngsters from Gamalakhe under their wing.
A development programme was initiated at the Umtentweni-based Burry Stander Bike Park on 4 January this year, and the progress that the riders have made since then is astounding.
The identified youngsters utilise equipment supplied by the park, learn the basics and receive lunches after their rides, and it’s become evident that they have quickly grown to share the man who paved the way’s love of mountain biking.
Stander’s mom Mandie is the driving force behind the development programme and said it’s heartening to see how the youngsters have taken to the initiative.
“The development programme it going well,” Mandie told eHowz!t.
“Our aim is to show youngsters the ropes in a safe environment and then as they progress, take them to races. We’ll also try to get the ones that really excel into academies.”
Touching on the dedication of the development riders, Mandie said: “We have two youngsters who cycle from Gamalakhe to the Burry Stander Bike Park [approximately 22km]on a Saturday and Sunday to ride with the fast group.
“The group ride starts at 6.30am, so you must know how early they must leave Gamalakhe on their bikes to be here on time, and then they go for a 30-kilometre mountain bike ride!”
One of the riders who have flourished in the programme is Zibele Bhoyi. The 19-year-old has shown marked improvement since his shaky early days in January and was named April’s Development Rider of the Month.
“Zibele got on a bike for the first time on the fourth of January and is already riding with clip-ins. He seems to be loving it and is riding with the fast group every morning,” said Mandie.
Stander’s brother Duane commented: “Zibele is definitely the rider of the month. I rode with him on Sunday for the first time since seeing him wobbling around the bike park in January struggling with his balance and I was blown away.”
Mandie said the development programme is a long-term project and that they plan to expand it and incorporate local rural schools soon.
The programme will also include a series of clinics that will focus on the functions of a mountain bike, safety, mountain bike maintenance, education on mountain bike races and nutrition.
Since the official opening of the Burry Stander Bike Park – situated on the Stander family farm – on 4 January this year, the park has been going from strength to strength.
The venue now boasts Stander’s cross-country course, where the former Under-23 world champion spent many hours training, a short beginner’s course, children’s course, jungle gym and a coffee shop.
One senses the establishment of the park has had a therapeutic effect on Mandie, whose personal project is the most breath-taking feature of the venue – a picturesque garden, which is the final resting place of the South Coast’s greatest ever sportsman.
“The energy here is just so positive. We meet people from all over. There is still a lot to do, but we are moving forward,” said Mandie, who insisted the park is family-centred.
“We encourage not only kids but parents to come and join us as well. Even if they don’t have bikes, we have bikes available that they can use.
“Those who don’t cycle can come and enjoy some refreshments at the coffee shop while the kids ride or play on the jungle gym.”
Entry and participating in outrides are free, however, those who wish to contribute towards the Burry Stander Foundation – which Mandie hopes will be registered soon – can do so at a donation box at the park.
“We are now in the final process to get the foundation registered,” she said.
“It has been a stressful procedure and a lot of paperwork. I can only thank everyone involved, as well as all the Burry fans that are assisting us.”
She stressed that it’s compulsory for every rider to sign an indemnity form and to buy a number board for a once-off fee of R50.
Mandie added that the outrides from the park for fast (6.30am) and casual riders (7am) from Tuesdays to Sundays are proving very popular.
“The rides have been going well. The social group mainly caters for everyone, especially for kids from seven years upwards, so anyone is welcome to come and ride regardless of their skill level.”
For more information about the Burry Stander Bike Park, the development programme or the Burry Stander Foundation, contact Mandie on 079 493 7499 or Roxanne on 082 440 4666 or email [email protected]
Burry Stander Bike Park address: Bali Hai Farm, St Faiths Road, Umtentweni
Directions to Burry Stander Bike Park: Take the Umtentweni/St Faiths Road off ramp from the N2.
Proceed inland on St Faiths Road for 3km. Turn right off the tar road and left into the Burry Stander Bike Park.