By Mark Etheridge
Beijing Olympian Burry Stander rode to his eighth national cross-country title on the trot with victory at the national Mountain Bike Championships at Fountains, Pretoria at the weekend.
Victory was the perfect warm-up for the KwaZulu-Natal rider as he prepares for his next World Cup event in Switzerland.
It was also a good weekend for Stander’s partner Cherise Taylor who came third in the women’s Under-23 category as well as fifth overall.
“The crowd that lined up was the biggest I’ve seen at an SA x-country for years and that got me psyched up,” said Stander.
“As the gun went Phillip Buys moved into the lead with his trademark kick off the line, closely followed by Matthys Beukes, with me in third.”
“After the first single-track I moved past Matthys as he slowed and them moved onto Phillip’s wheel. I stayed there as passing on this track was tough. I settled in before making a move at the end of the first lap. I got a small gap and once I was off the front I could ride much smoother and limit the big accelerations. I felt strong all race and I sense that all the XC specific training paid off in the last laps as the course was very demanding on the upper body.”
Stander’s win came in front of friends and family, included his grandmother who saw him race for the first time ever. “It was very special and I can’t wait to rock the national jersey at next weekend’s World Cup.”
Stander pulled away just on a minute for each lap and ended up finishing 10 minutes ahead of runner-up Renay Groustra (GT) and 12 minutes in front of Beukes.
The women’s title went to MTN-Energade’s Yolande Speedy, and she won by eight minutes. Runner-up was Anina Aaron while Speedy’s MTN-Energade team-mate took third.
Junior world champion medallist last year, DCM’s Candice Neethling was a comfortable winner in this category on local soil.
Stander’s Specialized/Mr Price team-mate Arno du Toit easily won the junior race from James Reid and Travis Walker.