By Bardy the Action Scribe

The Pick ‘n Pay Amashovashova, KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest cycling event, celebrates its 21st anniversary from 19-21 October. But unlike most 21st birthday celebrations, this ‘party’ is open to everyone, especially children who have a total of three fun events to choose from.

Kids between the ages of 3 and 11 will be able to join the festivities at the Mini-Shova 1km (3-6 years) or the Mini-Shova 5km (7-11 years). There is also a 6km kiddies mountain bike ride at the Asishove at Giba Gorge. All these events take place on Saturday 20 October.

The focus on kids events linked to the flagship road race event over 106km from Pietermaritzburg to Durban and the 45km mountain bike race has two important elements, according to Race Director, Annie Batchelder.

“Firstly, we want to promote family fun at the Amashova and what better way than for the kids to be included in an event that their parents hold in high regard,” said Batchelder. “And secondly, we’re well aware of the worrying increase in childhood obesity in this country and believe that because cycling is regarded as fun and not formal exercise, the more kids we can get riding bikes through our events, the better.”

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, a total of 17% of South African children between the ages of 1–9 years of age are overweight. Childhood obesity is an increasing concern in a country where a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle are being eroded by fast-paced living and convenience foods.

Childhood obesity is linked primarily to unhealthy eating habits, but regular exercise is also essential to create a balance and ensure kids have a shot at a healthy childhood – and ultimately, adulthood. It is far easier to change bad habits when young, hence the creation of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Community Children’s Programme, which has successfully reached 1.7 million children since it’s inception 10 years ago.

Riding a bicycle offers children not only a chance to get regular doses of unstructured, fun exercise, but also to experience the dual feelings of freedom and control that they will encounter increasingly as they grow older, helping them develop emotionally as well as physically.

The Amashova kid’s cycle events take place on traffic-free routes with safety being the organisers’ priority and emphasis is placed on participation and not podium-chasing.

“There is no pressure on the children to perform to a certain standard at our events,” explained Batchelder. “There are no positional prizes. Each little participant gets a bunch of goodies and a finisher’s medal. It’s a wonderful thing to see so many kids having outdoor fun on their bikes.”

Pick ‘n Pay, commemorating its 40th birthday this year, will have a special celebration at the finish of the Pick ‘n Pay Mini-Shova, including cake and entertainment. All entrants to the race also stand a chance to win a Pick ‘n Pay Birthday Party for themselves and 40 friends worth R10 000. There are also eight Spur bicycles up for grabs this year. At the end of the race Spur will give away a bicycle to one lucky participant in each age group.

Schedule of kid’s events on Saturday, 20 October 2007:
•    08h30 Asishove Kids 6km mountain bike ride, Pinetown
•    16h00 Mini-Shova 1km, Suncoast Casino, Durban
•    17h00 Mini-Shova 5km, Suncoast Casino, Durban