The first round of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup (XCO) presented by Shimano takes place this weekend in Nove Mesto na Morave (Czech Republic) on 23 and 24 May 2015. A few of South Africa’s star XCO riders – Jan Whitaar, Philip Buys, Arno Du Toit, Gert Heyns, Matthys Beukes, Brendon Davids, Alan Hatherly, Rourke Croeser, James Reid, Tim Wilkins, Mariske Struass and Cherie Vale – are in Europe to compete, and some took some time to share their experiences and preparation stories prior to the racing ahead. Kargo Pro MTB Team rider, Alan Hatherly, is feeling good about the amount of training he had done before leaving for Europe.
He said: ‘My international experience isn’t massive, but I feel that I have raced enough internationally to know what to expect. The biggest curve ball is just being first year u23 and without having raced a World Cup in this category yet, it does sort of allow for more of the unexpected. I have done quite a bit of extra single track work as well as speed sessions just to fine-tune both myself and my bike setup, but on the whole I feel I’m pretty spot-on leading into these World Cups and I’m really looking forward to it!’ In a conversation about racing in Europe, the Under-23 rider described it as ‘a completely different ball game compared to local racing in South Africa. I find that racing internationally exposes you to a whole new level of riding both competition wise as well as the difficulty of the courses. And then there’s also learning to deal with traffic and passing. Racing internationally is vital for any XCO specialist that wants to take their riding to the next level! With having teammates Brendon Davids and Emil Lindgren alongside me in Europe, I feel that they will definitely give me the extra edge.’ On the topic of teamwork, Scott Factory Pro Team rider, Gert Heyns, chatted about the importance of having his team together in Europe.
Heyns says: ‘This will be my first trip to Europe with a professional team structure that makes it a lot easier to perform your best without having to worry about anything. Having my best friends as teammates makes a huge difference in morale and puts one in the right headspace to perform at these highly competitive World Cups.’ Women’s Elite rider, Cherie Vale (26) has been thoroughly enjoying her time in Europe despite the weather, alongside team member and friend Mariske Strauss. Vale says: ‘Mariske and I took part in the third round of the British XC Series at Forest Farm, Llandrindod Wells in Wales. I Really enjoyed the course with some steep climbing and fast descending. Mariske took third and I finished fifth.’
The Novus OMX Pro Team rider is excited, also because she is familiar with the Nove Mesto na Morave track after competing there for the first time in 2014. After the first World Cup, Vale races the second Cup race in Albstadt next weekend, and the BMC Swiss Cup in Granichen. She says: ‘Lots of racing but and I am looking forward to it.’ Teammate Mariske Strauss chatted about juggling traveling, cycling, studying and a stomach bug that set her back by almost a week, saying: ‘There have been a couple of challenges but I am overcoming them. I’m enjoying Europe, it’s like my second home and I absolutely love the Czech Republic. I don’t know what to expect, as I’m feeling a bit under the weather. On the topic of weather, apparently it’s a warm spring for Czech Republic but I beg to differ. It’s a bit chilly.’
This will be Strauss’ fourth year competing on the Czech Republic track, which she loves and is very familiar with. Both Novus OMX Pro Team riders thanked their team for the opportunity to be where they are, and their never-failing support structure. She says: ‘My life has been an absolute whirlwind. Anybody who decides to study and cycle must know that it is not easy.’
Somebody who plans to do just that is the youngster in the mix, Tim Wilkins, who says: ‘I have had some time to just ride, but its now time for me to study and do something else as well.’ Wilkins is also itching to race, especially because of his love for the Czech Republic Cup track, saying: ‘I’m very excited to race; I’m really looking forward to it. I have only ridden three World Cup tracks, but this one is by far my favourite.’ Sponsored by Santa Cruz, the nineteen-year-old rider also mentioned the indescribable support received from the European crowds during the races: ‘There are close to 30 000 people at these events, it’s unbelievable. The way that they cheer you on gets you very excited and motivated and it makes you feel like you can ride faster! I’ve been here for close to five weeks now. I have been enjoying myself, but I’m also keen to get back home.’
For more information about the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, click here: http://www.uci.ch/mountain-
Photo: Kargo Pro MTB Team rider, Alan Hatherly is fully prepared to race in the first round of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup (XCO) presented by Shimano, taking place this weekend in Nove Mesto na Morave (Czech Republic) on 23 and 24 May 2015
Photo credit: craigdutton.com