Coondoo Classic a decade on | story photos and video

Teachers Cathy Boyce and James Wright get great satisfaction with how a mountain bike event they help start 10 years-ago continues to go strong.

The Coondoo Classic, on June 15, will mark its 10th anniversary and for many high school students this event is the highlight of their sporting year.

Mrs Boyce and Mrs Wright always like to give their Vincentia High School students different opportunities and 10-years-ago  they decided to give them the chance to try mountain bike riding.

They took a group of nine students down to the ACT championships and things for the Coondoo Classic, now held at the Falls Creek course,  just developed.

“On the back from the ACT we were talking on the bus and saying ‘we should hold our own event’,” Mr Wright said.

Both Mrs Boyce and Mr Wright said there was a vibe of excitement and a ‘feeling of we can do it’ as they all talked about holding a South Coast race.

They contacted the then president of the South Coast United Mountain bike club (SCUM) Paul Musgrove for support and his group was keen to help.

At the first event 80 students riders took part.

The first race was only Shoalhaven competitors and not its open for riders from the entire South Coast and inland as far as Crookwell and Goulburn.

Now on average they get 180 competitors at the event and one year hit the 250 mark.

“There was no other mountain bike event in school sport in the state - whether it be outside school or not,” Mr Wright said

“We were the first race (school based) of its kind in NSW.”

Riders, over the past decade, came up from Eden and down from Wollongong to hit the Coondoo track.

“It was pretty exciting to see the kids take part in an activity that have not been involved in the school curriculum over time ,” Mrs Boyce said.

“It was a great day and we had perfect weather for the first event.

“It was fun to see kids not normally included on team sports be able to have an opportunity to be active and have fun in an alternative team sport.”

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Mr Wright agreed that bike riding gives people another sporting option.

“They may not be good at cricket or soccer but they can ride a bike. You don’t have to be fast and it’s a bit more about participation,” Mr Wright said.

The first event got loads of support from businesses like Bikes at the Basin, The Bike Shack, Tippos Cycles and they all supported the kids by donating prizes.

“The support has continued over the 10 years and the support is still going,” Mrs Boyce said.

There will be a celebration with all the event’s supporters after the races on June 15.

There has been some fun along the way.

“We had a few journeys and we had a day where we hung in there when it rained halfway through the event - it literally poured,” Mrs Boyce said.

“Kids still talk about about the adventures they had which led them going in other events.”

From Coondoo students have taken on major 24 hour events.

“It (the local race) has given them the confidence to go further,” Mrs  Boyce said.

Vincentia High’s Jade Colligan is now in the NSW Institute Sports Roads team and Tristan Ward is now a professional mountain bike rider are both past Coondoo riders.

“If we did not have events like  Coondoo I know Tristan would not had finished school and he would not be an elite at all,” Mr Wright said

The event brings the students from Vincentia High together and the senior riders become role models for their younger school mates.

Mr Wright said students from other schools even support each other.

“I know there was an incidence when a young kid from another school had broken his bike and one of our senior riders went ‘here you go you can take mine and I will limp your bike back’ . He gave up his chance to win or be super competitive all to help out a younger kid,” Mr Wright said.

Riders from other schools have also been accepted in the Vincentia High team and students from Vincentia High’s feeder schools also look forward to taking part in the event.

Now when Mr Wright goes in any event in NSW people will say ‘you are from Vincentia High and have got that really good race’.

They hope the event will still be going in another 10 years.