Pedalling their way to the podium

Byron Munton is making a name for himself on the competitive cycling scene.

The Munton siblings of Hout Bay are turning two-wheeled racing, the non-motorised kind, into a family affair after a chance few up-and-down sprints on Chapman’s Peak turned a hobby into their passion and passion into prize-winning ability.

It didn’t take long for big brother, Byron, 17, a matric pupil at Wynberg Boys’ High School to go from first jumping in the saddle of a road bike his father brought home one afternoon, to joining a cycling team, kitting himself out and making the Western Province Cycling Association (WPCA) junior side that came home with a string of medals in tow after tackling the Oudtshoorn Youth Festival, last month.

He took part in his first competitive race last year in Fish Hoek and from there he was hooked.

Byron and his sister Jessie, 10, compete in road races, track cycling at the velodrome and even tackle trails with their mountain bikes.

Byron has big dreams and if he keeps up his winning ways he is well on his way to fulfilling them.

“I had always heard people talk about road races and I just wanted to see what it was all about.

“My dad planned to start riding and brought a bike home.

“Before he could even use it I asked if I could try it out. It wasn’t even more than three rides up and down Chapman’s Peak – that was all I could do at the time – before the bug had bitten.

“I took part in the youth festival in Oudtshoorn as part of the WPCA team and competed over four days. Day 1 was a 109km road race on a very demanding course.

“After a few attacks the strong riders were separated from the weak and, together with a rider from the Eastern Cape, I worked to catch the race leader. I was just short of the kick for the finish but was happy to settle for second place.

“On day 2 we competed in a 1.5km hill climb. The idea of this race is to just put your head down and go as fast as you can until you cross the finish line.

“My effort was good enough to secure a first place finish and I achieved the all-time course record.

“On the third and fourth days we had the criterium races and the mountain bike cross country. I came fourth overall in the criterium and placed second overall in the cross country, even though this was only my second mountain bike race,” said Byron.

Competing as a junior, Jessie, a Grade 4 pupil at Camps Bay Primary School, says she looks up to her brother and appreciates the motivation he gives her on race day.

She also competed in the youth festival where she claimed top honours in her four events.

These included a 14km road race, hill climb, team time trial and criterium sprints.

“The first time I took part in a race I was scared, nervous and excited at the same time. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my body.

“I look up to Byron because he is so dedicated and always pushes me to do well and gives me extra motivation on race days.

“At the youth festival I had an accident at the start of the road race when a boy pulled in front of me.

“A race official was on hand to help me up and told me to go on and that I am a champ. It was a tough race because half the race is uphill. The hill climb was also hard but at least it was short.

“The time trial was a walk in the park and I actually had to wait for most of the boys as the team has to have one girl and three boys finishing at the same time. They take that time as the overall time trial result.

“At the moment I am still very young to decide what I want to do and am just having fun and enjoying the sport,” said Jessie.

Byron, however, has ambitions that could see him jetting off after school to compete at the highest level.

For now, he is content to let his cycling take a slight back seat in favour of his studies.

However, he still maintains a regimented training programme despite there being no major races coming up in the near future.

“I was very happy with my recent results and I can see how much I have improved since last year. I was happy to tie for first place overall at the youth festival.

“This was a good indicator of what form I am in and where I can go with cycling. My goal for next year is to be able to race in Europe competitively and take it from there.

“At the moment my training is focused on next year and with it being my final year of school I am focusing on my studies.

“My dream is to one day take part in the three big grand tours but for now I need to overcome the more intermediate obstacles.

“You need to dedicate a lot of time to this sport and there are days where you feel like you are getting nowhere.

“When you are able to push through that, then you are on the right path to becoming a good sportsman,” said Byron.