Team Spur is privileged to be harnessing some of the incredible talent that has emerged from the Spur Schools League for our Cape Pioneer Trek campaign – in the form of U23 National Champion, Julian Jessop.
Julian Jessop (19) will partner with Olympian and Elite National Champion James Reid (24) for the seven day, 503km odyssey as it covers the challenging terrain from Mossel Bay to George, finishing in Oudtshoorn. The two youngsters intend to test some of the most experienced marathon stage race pairings in the country, as well as a number of international pro teams who have their eyes set on the coveted Pioneer overall title.
"After seeing the National Final of the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League in Magaliesburg this past weekend it feels like I’m completing the circle at the end of this year," James said. "I've experienced the entire spectrum – from grassroots to the high end of the Olympics – and now racing with a graduate of the Spur Schools League. Julian Jessop is super talented in his own right, and combining our efforts to see what we can do against some of the best mountain bikers in the country is an exciting prospect and I look forward to racing with him. I think it’s a great opportunity for both Julian and myself – to really push him and to show him what’s possible with the right kind of support. I think it’s something for a lot of participants in the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League to look forward to and see that they too can participate at the highest level not only in South Africa but also in the world."
The pair are no strangers. Both talented riders hail from KwaZulu-Natal, and have raced each other a few times in the past. Most recently, Julian proved an invaluable training partner immediately before the Rio Olympics, when James set up a high-performance training camp of his own in Pietermaritzburg, prior to flying out to Brazil.
"I am beyond excited to start the Cape Pioneer Trek alongside James in Team Spur colours," said Julian, echoing James's enthusiasm for the week ahead. "James has played a key mentorship role in my cycling career over the past 18 months. He has taught me skills which apply both on and off the bike, including technical line choices, training techniques, analytical skills and self-discipline. This is extremely important when trying to balance my life as a professional mountain biker while pursuing my tertiary education. I respect James immensely and he has shown that I can also achieve great things in these two important aspects of my life.”
“The Spur Schools League has fundamentally changed the prospects for young mountain bikers in South Africa," said Julian, when asked what the League has to develop emerging talent. "What was once a sport that only a few youngsters even knew about, is now a recognised school sport in most of the top schools around the country."
"The Cape Pioneer Trek is one of the biggest mountain bike stage races in South Africa and is incredibly tough. It is going to be very exciting to see how James and I fare over the seven days. Hopefully, our cross-country focus can come in handy during technical single track sections. It's very cool to be a part of a professional set up like Team Spur and I must say a huge thanks to James, Team Spur and my own sponsors, Concept Cyclery in Ballito for making this happen and giving me this opportunity!"