The third round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series, which takes place at Wolwespruit Bike Park, will be hosted by City of Tshwane in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria on Saturday 26 March. Although the UCI Category 1 rating applies to Pro-Elites only, this does not stop the performance of the younger riders, as they all challenge each other for series points as well.
Kargo Pro MTB Team’s Pieter Du Toit, (who hasn’t seemed to show strain transitioning from the Youth category last year) currently lies third in the Junior Men’s Series Log after two events, only ten points below current series leader, Reinhard Zellhuber, and four behind second placed Jarrod van den Heever. “We are very close to each other in the points. I have never ridden Wolwespruit before, I am aiming for podium, but I am expecting a lot of climbing,” he said.
“We’ve been training very hard so far with Oom Frans van der Berg,” said Du Toit. “We are focusing on our climbing a bit more as well as endurance, because the SA Marathon Champs is coming closer. We have been doing a lot of technical training here in Namibia as well,” he added. Du Toit is currently in Namibia with teammate and current overall Junior Women’s log leader, Kristen Louw.
When discussing 2016 season goals, Du Toit said: “I would like to win or get a podium place at the National Champs in Cross-country and Marathon this year, as well as the African Continental Championships in Lesotho. I would also like to go and compete at World Champs this year.”
Certainly making a name for herself in the Junior realm of XCO racing, is KwaZulu-Natal local, Christie-Leigh Hearder. The fresh-faced firecracker has been hit with a cold over this past week, but isn’t scared, and she’s eager to shake it off and head to Pretoria for round three for the middle battle of the series.
“I haven't ridden in Wolwespruit before, so looking forward to a new challenge,” says Hearder.
The season has been a promising one so far for Hearder, claiming two silver medals in the series, and two gold in the KZN Provincial XCO Series so far. Hearder has put nothing but focus and energy into every bit of her riding this season, and is determined to reach the personal goals she has set for herself. When asked about a possibility of taking the overall series title in her age group after the five events, she said:
“To take the title would mean a lot to me. To be able to show that the hard work of my coach Johann (Wykerd) has paid off would be amazing. And for me, I would love to take the title to make my mom proud as after her death last year - she has been my biggest inspiration in every race.”
Although enjoying provincial racing, Hearder says that the lack of Junior women entrants in the local competitions doesn’t provide enough challenge for her to better herself on the bike. “When I do provincial racing, I try to keep up with the u23s and, although I haven't gotten there yet, I still try my best and hopefully one day will keep up with them. Nationals are a lot more pressure as there are a lot of juniors. But it makes the race more exciting and interesting,” she concluded.