There is nothing quite like seeing a child, filled with joy and freedom, riding a bicycle. We recently met up with former professional cyclist, Umhlanga businessman and founder of the Go!Durban Cycle Academy, Shaun Peschl.
Driven by his passion for seeing young children, specifically those from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, discover a love for cycling and have a safe space to learn and grow, former SA champion cyclist Shaun Peschl launched the Go!Durban Cycle Academy in 2016.
Since then, he has been instrumental in helping build and facilitate a number of different parks in areas around Durban, including eNanda, KwaMashu, Chesterville and KwaDebeka, with two new parks in the pipeline in Cornubia and Wentworth.
Shaun is also the owner of the Umhlanga branch of well-known imported tile shop, Ceragran Tiles. He is also a single father to his 11-year-old son.
Shaun’s love affair with cycling started when he was very young and, by the time he was 18, he was spending six months at a time competing overseas. Although he started out as a road cyclist, Shaun transitioned to mountain biking in 2004 after competing in the Transalp mountain bike stage race in the Alps. Over the years, Shaun earned himself a reputation both as a successful rider internationally and locally (competing in races like The Cape Epic and Sani2Sea, JHB 2 C ), and as a brand ambassador. He was sponsored by Marshalls World of Sport for six years. “A lot of it is about personality and making sure you give the brand that is sponsoring you the exposure they are looking for,” says Shaun, who is still a brand ambassador for various companies (including Hoopers VW), even though he no longer competes.
It was his passion and ability to impart knowledge to younger riders that motivated Shaun to start a racing team in 2012. It was called the Kargo Pro Cycling Team and Shaun managed the riders as they competed around Europe for four years. “I was a very hands-on manager. I was the team mechanic, head of logistics, sponsorships and media liaison,” he laughs. “I loved taking on younger riders and helping them grow their portfolios.”
When his time with professional cycling came to an end in 2016, Shaun turned his focus to underprivileged communities. “We used to take our racing team to visit the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy in Joburg, which provides basic mountain bike and life skills training for underprivileged youth. I thought it would be amazing to have something like that here in KZN.”
So, after meeting with Ethekwini Transport, Shaun’s company Peschl Sports, the city of Durban, Green Corridors and key sponsors set about launching the Go!Durban Cycle Academy. They also now also have international partners, KFW German Development Bank, on board.
“I’m the implementing agent for the parks,” Shaun says. “We have over 80 people on the ground managing the different sites in conjunction with Green Corridors.
Each park has a world class pumptrack, classroom, workshop, along with trail workers and coaches. Our area is developed with the natural terrain in mind which gives each site its own identity.”
Teachers are employed from the local community to help the youth with their homework and extra tutoring. These sites are about much more than just cycling. It’s rather a holistic approach to caring for the youth in these communities.
“We have about 150 kids at each park, with what we call the ‘top 40’ who attend regularly. When they arrive, they are given a bike (that’s been checked by the coaches) and they ride for about an hour and a half. Then they read, do homework and play games. It’s a safe environment for them to engage, play and connect with each other, using sport as a common focus.”
Go!Durban Cycle Academy has won the prestigious Hollard Sport Industry Award for best development programme and there are more sites in the pipeline. “The best part is taking the kids to races and showing them different parts of our country. Our role is to help facilitate this and guide the coaches where we can and I also feel very strongly about empowering young female riders,” he says.
Shaun is also involved in the local BlackBurn Village community, with numerous enterprise developments including a. bakery and soon-to-be launched Sew Local initiative.
Text: Leah Shone| Photograph: GRAEME BRUNT