What motivated you to move to Team Spur in 2017?
Team Spur is known in the mountain bike industry as one of the best teams in the country. It has an incredible support system and team structure. The team is small, featuring just two athletes, which makes it an extremely driven set up to be a part of. They are also backed by incredible sponsors. To answer the question: when the opportunity arose for me to join Team Spur, I didn't hesitate!
Joining Team Spur means a switch from Giant to Specialized bicycles. In the past few years you have ridden Momsen, Giant, and now Specialized bikes. Is it difficult to adjust to a new bike every year? Tell us a bit about your new bike setup and how it compares so far?
It is difficult to adjust to new bikes every year, especially with vastly different geometries. That said, the Specialized Epic has been surprisingly easy to adapt to. A big factor is that Specialized managed to get me onto the new setup early in December allowing me to get all my base and strength work in on the new rig. It also let me put the bike through some really good pre-season testing to find the ideal setup. It feels incredibly fast and I'm really comfortable on the Epic leading into the 2017 season.
We hear that you have moved down to Cape Town. Are you studying there or was it a move to benefit your training and racing? Have you made any other big changes for this year?
I have relocated to Cape Town to better my training ground as well as be closer to the team head office and my coach John Wakefield. It has been a month since I've relocated and my training has definitely been elevated to another level. I'm really excited to get out and race my first few races of the season near the end of January!
Obviously, XCO is your focus. Is defending your SA XCO Cup Series title a goal this year? Will we see you competing seriously in any marathon or stage race events?
My focus for the 2017 season will remain XCO driven with the idea of top 10 UCI XCO World Cup results throughout the year and a top 5 finish at the UCI XCO World Championships in Australia. I would really like to defend my SA XCO Cup series title as well as claim the SA XCO title this year! I believe this season will also be the perfect platform for me to chase my 2018 goal of a medal at the Commonwealth Games. In the later part of the year I've planned to do some stage racing such as W2W.
In the press release announcing your move to Team Spur, it was mentioned that you will be racing in Europe. How many of the European World Cup events can we expect to see you taking part in and which other races do you have planned in Europe?
I will be taking on at least 5 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup events which allows me to focus on a really good overall series result this year! For the time being I'm focusing mainly on the big international events which would be the World Cup events.
What was the Rio Olympic experience like? Were you happy with how your race turned out and what was your strategy on the day?
Rio was an incredible experience to have had so early in my career and it has definitely motivated me for a big result at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2020 Olympic Games. As far as my result - I'm really happy with the outcome of 26th even though I was aiming for a top 20 finish. The rain the night before and on the day created more bottlenecks and lap traffic than I think anyone expected, which wasn't good for me especially with my starting position being 46th (right at the back). This makes my final result satisfying enough because I was able to fight my way through the field to pass 20 riders and achieve 26th. I do feel if the weather was the way it was during the week (hot and really dry) a top 20 would have been on the cards. My strategy was to race steady and not get caught up in the first few laps' over excitement, with riders making silly decisions and riding over their limit. It is the main reason there were so many crashes and punctures. I picked the riders off one by one and attacked the last few laps to pass the riders who had gone out way too hot.
Having been successful in Rio, do you already have one eye on Tokyo 2020? How do the uncertainties in selection play a role in your long terms goals?
I have my eyes fixed on the 2020 Olympic Games - much earlier this time around which allows for a long term plan and mindset as well as another 4 years of World Cup racing experience. That will allow me to race closer to the front end of the field in 2020. As for selection, I aim to be clear of any conflict and be the first pick for the 2020 Games.
The pool of pro teams in South Africa seems to be shrinking. What do you see the future holding for South African riders?
The pro teams in South Africa do seem to be fading - which is a worry for the up and coming riders to get support to elevate their riding to an international level. I think the exchange rate crisis we had in 2016 had an effect on our economy and played a major role in sponsors not being able to support riders. I'm hoping to see many more development teams start up through 2017 into 2018 to assist the youth of the sport.
With Team Spur, you will be involved in the Spur Schools League. How do you think the League has impacted MTB in South Africa?
I will be very involved with the Spur Schools League this year - its crucial to get involved and show the roots of the sport the paths to follow to create careers from their talents and passion. The league draws out over 10 500 riders across the country which is massive and definitely expands the chances of our country developing future stars from a young age. I came through the inter-school league and it has been a major contributing factor to my success.