By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s two women mountain bikers for next month’s Commonwealth Games both saw hometown action at the weekend’s UCI World Cup cross-country event in Stellenbosch.
Already with one Commonwealth Games (2014) under her belt, Mariske Strauss ended 28th and German-based Cherie Redecker 35th.
They were respectively 7min 24sec and 11:24 behind winner Annika Langvad of Denmark.
South Africa’s men’s cross-country representative for the Gold Coast Games, Alan Hatherly is still on the mend after a serious crash in a multiple-stage event a few weeks back.
‘I’m quite happy with [the way] things went,’ said Durbanville’s Strauss. ‘I was aiming for top 20 and I’m happy with my position considering the first lap.
‘It’s the first World Cup of [the] season and [it] is really early in the season in any case. To be honest, I’m not really thinking of the Commie Games right now as I have the Cape Epic to get through first. I’m getting into training for that now and am better prepped than last year. I’m taking it on with Annie Last [10th at the weekend’s World Cup] so once that’s done I’ll just see how I feel.
‘Then there’s also nationals which I must decide if I’m doing or not, so March is very much a month of taking a week at a time and not thinking too far ahead. My end goal was to leave everything out there at the weekend, and I’m feeling like a zombie now so I think I definitely did just that.’
Redecker (pictured above) jetted off back to Germany the very next day, ready to resume a German language course but she was extremely positive about the World Cup. ‘Having a World Cup in Stellies was amazing and big thanks to all involved. I think it has had a positive impact on the development of XCO in SA!
‘Luckily I had Stephen and Daniel Van Der Walt giving me insight into the changes that were made on the track from 2015 so I had a good idea what to expect. I also managed to find a XCO race in Spain so I could get an idea where my form was in a race scenario before the World Cup. Despite mentally preparing for the track I was a little worried about my technical riding due to mainly training indoors in the German winter.
‘After a week preparing on the Stellies track and Heiko [husband] helping me, my confidence on the technical sections was good. It is amazing what a dropper seat post can do to help the confidence. All in all, race preparations were on point for the weekend’s race and surprisingly I was feeling so relaxed.
‘I was amazed with the amount of people who came to support, the atmosphere was electrifying. The nerves did start kicking in on race day but I tried to keep focus.
‘Once the gun went off my main focus was not to get caught in a crash and to get as close to the front as possible. Unfortunately, there were some crashes in front of me but luckily I didn’t get caught up in them. Everything was going well and I was closing in on the group ahead of me but on the third and fourth lap I seemed to have lost energy and went through a dip.
‘Thankfully on the fifth lap, I got going again and came back strong, finishing 35th. I’m slightly disappointed about my result but I know my form is there. Over the next few weeks, my coach John Wakefield and I will work on fine tuning my training leading up to the Commonwealth Games. I will be back in SA for the SA Cup in Gauteng before I head to Australia.’
Pictures of Strauss and Redecker courtesy of Craig Kolesky and Lynn Sigel/EGO-Promotion respectively