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SA champions rewarded with spots in team for World Championships

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By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s team to the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in Andorra, Europe is brimful of both hardened internationals and up and coming talent.
A team of 19 riders were announced by Cycling South Africa for the 31 August-6 September event in the town of Vallnord, situated at roughly 1400 metres above sea level and a popular winter sports location.
South Africa has representation in both the cross-country (XCO) and downhill (DHI) categories, 12 in the former and seven in the latter.
Cross-country sees Olympic and Commonwealth Games rider Philip Buys spearheading the side that also includes Commonwealth Games rider Mariske Strauss. The latter will be joined by newly crowned SA MTB women’s champion Cherie Vale.
Experienced international campaigner and current SA XCO champion James Reid is also in the line up, alongside Rourke Croeser, William Mokgopo and Sipho Madolo. The Under-23 ranks feature Alan Hatherly and Gert Heyns. Hatherly is the current African Youth Games champion from Botswana last year.
And Frankie du Toit is in the Junior ranks. Like Hatherly, also part of Team SA at the African Youth Games, she has had a great 2015, being crowned champion in both the junior individual and team time trial divisions at the Confederation of African Cycling Road Championships in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year. She’s joined by Julian Jessop and Marco Joubert in the junior section.
The Downhill brigade are led by Greg Minnaar, the man of the moment in mountain biking right now after his record 18th World Cup win recently.
He’s joined by Andrew Neethling, Tiaan Odendaal, newly crowned downhill champion Stefan Garlicki (pictured above) and Samuel Bull in the elite section while brothers Jonathan and Christopher Philogene represent the juniors in the DHI division.
When it comes to Buys, it’s surely his dream to get to the startline of any major event without being handicapped by health or injury issues.
This last weekend he races SA MTB Championships with a cold while his SA Cup event at Nelspruit saw him riding into a tree and injuring his shoulder ligaments.
Said the Tuks/HPC rider. ‘It seems as if I have become master of the art of getting ill or injured before an important race.
Buys is all too aware that if he is to stand any chance of representing South Africa at next year’s Olympic Games, he has his work cut out for him.
‘At the moment it seems as if South Africa might be able to qualify two riders for the Games. However, I have to be the realistic. Considering my results so far this season, my chances of going to Rio are slim. But I’m still not despondent. I know that, on a good day without any setbacks, I will still be capable of proving myself worthy of a place in the Olympic team.’
Buys does not plan to compete in any race in the build-up to the World Championships.
‘I think it would be best for me to put in the long hard hours on my own, while doing my best to stay healthy and injury free. If my luck should hold until the World Championships, my goal would be to race for a top-20 finish.’

Picture of Garlicki courtesy of Craig Dutton


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