How did you get into riding mountain bikes?
I got big into cross-country, came up through the school ranks and national series, and I got some really good results. I always loved the technical side of cross-country. My dad and I agreed one day that I'd get a dual suspension and keep it away from my mom so that she'd only know once it was too late.
Then I started getting into the enduro racing. I started with a few Dirtopia races and noticed that I was doing really well. I thought maybe let's give this a bash. I grew up on Helderberg mountain, so the trails were easily accessible to me.
Having come through the schools riding structures, what do you think of the current set up?
The format of the racing is not too technical allowing everyone to get a taste for lap racing. Then there are the provincial and national XCO events with more difficult tracks and longer laps.
Starting in Grade 8 at Paul Roos, which at the time was the best MTB school in the country. For a good 3 to 4 years, we were winning all the time. I had a good group of older guys that really helped me out. I was always this young kid that came on the group rides.
Coming from the cross-country background, how much endurance riding do you still do and how does it relate to enduro racing?
The enduro training is not as structured. When I am on my cross-country bike, I just ride. I try to do any intervals that I do on my enduro bike to get a good feel for it. Enduro race stages can be 6 to 20 minutes with climbs that can be up to one minute long, so you have to be ready to sprint them hard as you are being timed.
Can you compare Enduro World Series to marathon riding?
Does the local enduro scene prepare you for racing overseas?
We have awesome trails that are fun to ride but they don't have the gradient or technicality that the overseas trails do. You can see it immediately, the local riders feel completely comfortable riding stuff that I look at not even knowing how I am going to ride it, let alone race it.
There are some really nice local trails but the race organisers do not seem to put them all together. There was an enduro in Jonkershoek that did not use the black line which is a must for an enduro race, otherwise it's just a cross-country race where you are not timed up the hills. Local races cater for everybody, and it is understandable, but hopefully, in the next few years, there will be more support for the race organisers to pull it off.
How much riding did you do overseas before heading to the Enduro World Series?
Which EWS races did you take part in this year?
Rotorua and Tasmania were the first two and both were completely rained out and a mud-fest. Actually, the first five races this year were muddy really.
This was a big challenge coming from South African summer, dusty, rocky, and loose to riding in rain forests. The international riders are at home racing in the muck. I was second-guessing my grip on every root.
Speaking of mud. What kind of support did you have?
I enjoyed it. The whole year was spent solving problems. Even just making it to race day was hard enough. Especially in some countries with language barriers, like France. They're not too interested in trying to help you out.
In Tasmania, we were too young to rent a car, so we had to find a company that would rent us one. This meant three of us in one car with three bikes, three bags, a bunsen burner and a pan. That was us for the week.
As a privateer, it is important to keep an open mind and not stress about the small things or else it will overwhelm you.
Who did you travel with?
We'd sneak around the pits and look at what the pros were doing and learned new things.
How do the one day races compare to the longer two day events?
The single day races are also better suited for me as they are longer. I am definitely on the upper levels of fitness where the other guys start to struggle after 5 hours.
Most of the riders come from downhill. The downhill guys are fit now so it is not impossible for them to get fit for these races. There are only a handful of riders who come from cross-country but they are doing well. I don't think it matters too much. But while I am pushing my boundaries on the gnarly trails, they are totally comfortable coming from downhill.
Are you satisfied with your results?
I got a couple of top 3 and top 5 stage results but I struggled to consistently go fast. I'd have a few good stage results and then crash or lose a bit of time, which damages your overall. It's good to know that I can ride fast but I need to work on getting it consistent over the whole race which seems to be a challenge.
What have you been racing this year?
How did the Trance handle the Whistler trails?
My bike choice was not suited to Aspen and Whistler though. They were two completely different races. Aspen was fast and flat out at 80 kmph trying to tuck to go faster through seriously rough terrain while Whistler was slow, almost trials riding stuff, in deep roots.
Most people know Whistler for all the bike park features but we didn't really race any of that stuff in the EWS. We raced the natural tracks outside of the park which are exceptional.
Whistler had the craziest stage that I have ever ridden and probably will ever ride. It was 20-minutes long, including Top Of The World that goes into a track called Ride Don't Slide, which is known to be one of the most gnarly tracks that Whistler has to offer. I passed four people on that stage who had to pull over to rest their arms.
Is it tough competing with locals/ experienced that know the trails?
Madeira was the coolest stop. A tiny little island off the coast of Africa with so many trails.
What was the biggest challenges as a privateer?
The first two were the fairest because it was only riding, there were no shuttles allowed. So it was up to the riders. But in Madeira, it was a free for all. There were shuttles, but you had to queue and pay while the pros had their own private shuttles.
Affording spares was also a big problem. Without support, you have to nurse your equipment all the time. Tyres are a big one. You can ruin them in one day. You quickly learn to change your equipment to handle your needs as you go along.
I also did not take a minimalist approach. I rode Eagle for most of the year but as soon as I broke one thing, I changed it all back to 11-speed. It is much cheaper and in European and America, they haven't taken to it that broadly and it was hard to find parts in many shops.
How do riders get into a good position racing enduro?
It is difficult to break into the top 30 in the elites. Of the juniors that went to elites from last year, only one of them is getting good results.
Even in downhill, it is getting harder and that is why Stefan Garlicki's race in Val di Sole was really amazing.
Are you going to race the EWS again next year?
I think the EWS has almost become glorified downhill. I think going into elite is just going to be a step too far for me, especially being unsupported. One or two juniors will get a pro contract next year and I am not one of them. It will be very hard to go into elites unsupported and I do not think it is worth it for me. Unless you're a pro rider, I do not think it is possible.
What are your local racing plans?
I'll also be doing SA Enduro Champs at Hakahana. I have never ridden there which could be a problem.
And then some fun at Wines2Whales with Tim Wilkins.
What are you currently up to other than riding?
Do you have ambitions to become a full supported pro rider?
Maybe two years ago when I was younger, it was certainly a major goal. Now I have realised that there are a lot of fast guys and it takes a lot to get there. Unfortunately, I am geographically limited. Just not having the infrastructure, like a ski lift to pump out as many runs as you can. If I were planning on going pro, I would definitely need to spend at least half the year overseas training.
For marathon riders though, we have that dialled. There is no reason you can't be a marathon World Champion based in South Africa.