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Stander v Schleck

World cross-country mountain bike champion Burry Stander is in action on two continents in the space of days.

At the weekend the South African mixed it with the country’s top road bikers in the Amashova race in KwaZulu-Natal and tomorrow he’s in Spain where he takes on Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg in a unique match-up.

“I was just back in Europe in time for the Amashova weekend,” said Stander. ‘”First up was the somewhat muddy 70 kilometre MTB race which saw me completing the distance in 3hr 30min. It was seriously tough and slow going out there but I still managed to notch the win with (Specialized SA team-mate) Ben-melt Swanepoel in second spot.

‘Then on Sunday we made the trip down from Pietermaritzburg to Durban along the Comrades route by bike. All the SA domestic pro teams were present – Team Medscheme and MTN made the racing hard upfront and as we neared the finiah line of the 106km race the bunch was down to only 30 riders or so.

“I had a solid sprint by my standards and ended up ninth. I also managed to miss the huge bunch crash at the line which was caused by the timing mats lifting of the ground!”

Stander, a member of SASCOC’s OPEX programme of potential medallists at the 2012 Olympics, had this to say about tomorrow’s clash. “It’s to race Andy Schleck… we’re racing up a climb. I will be on the shorter MTB trail and he will take the road. It should be a fun experience!”

The question of who are the best cyclists – mountain-bikers or road disciplines – is always a hotly disputed one and tomorrow’s clash should go some way to settling the argument. According to UCI rankings, Stander is the world’s third-ranked mountain-biker and Schleck the country’s fourth ranked roadster.