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Cup leader Reid looks to shine on the European circuit

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By Mark Etheridge

Rio Olympic Games mountain bike hopeful James Reid has all but wrapped up the Stihl SA XCO Cup Series and now finds himself in Europe for a nine-week stint.
The Cape Town based cyclist hit the dirt running in the season-opener in Nelspruit and has gone on to win three of the four legs in the series with just one to come at the end of June, which he will forgo in favour of international experience ahead of a potential start at the Olympics Games in August.
‘That win in Nelspruit was a big confidence-booster and confirmation that I’d been putting in the right kind of work over the preparation phase,’ the Team Spur rider told Road to Rio 2016.
‘Next up, in mid-February, was the Helderberg leg, near my home base of Stellenbosch.’
But home isn’t always best as the former Hillcrest, KZN athlete learnt. ‘Having put in a few too many kilometres for the Cape Epic I didn’t have the same punch and finished a disappointing fifth with a few international guys present.’
After a premature exit from Cape Epic in early March it was off to the Wolwespruit venue in Pretoria for the third round of the Stihl National XCO series. ‘That came just two weeks after I pulled out of ‘Epic and I actually surprised myself by winning again and it was two out of three.’
With the selection window closing ever faster for the Rio Olympics it was all coming down to Port Elizabeth and the fourth leg of the Cup Series.
Having competed in atrocious weather for the HC PMB MTB festival two weeks  before the Cup, Reid stayed in Port Elizabeth for a full seven days, competing in a local provincial event the weekend before.
‘The intensity of the pressure kept building the whole week but the event itself was solid. From the word go Phillip Buys [Olympian and Commonwealth rider] was a bit off the pace and Alan Hatherly [2014 African Youth Games champion] tailed me very tightly. We did two of the six laps on each other’s tail until he made a small mistake that I exploited.
‘I kept pushing through till lap five where I crashed into a backmarker, bringing my lead back from 50 to 25sec, and the race was very much on.
‘He chased, I chased, things went by agonisingly slowly. It was real warfare. It wasn’t pretty and it didn’t feel good but it drew out to 55sec by the end and everyone was absolutely spent.’
Reid, who turns 24 in August, has now won three of the four events in the national series and four of the seven selection races. Hatherly is next closest with two wins and Buys has one win to his name.
‘I’m super happy to have performed consistently during the selection window as well as when it counted most.’
When it comes down to selection, Reid is keeping his cards close to his chest. ‘Selection will be tight but it’s not my decision and I’m not 100% sure how they are going to weigh it all up. I’m just as much in the dark as anyone else.’
His next nine weeks will see him taking on a combination of World Cups, Swiss Cups and World Championships as well a long training session with fellow international biker and Team Spur member Ariane Kleinhans in Chandolin, Switzerland.
First up though is this weekend’s UCI World XCO Cup in Albstadt, Germany.
Also in Albstadt are Elite Women’s racers Mariska Strauss and Cherie Redecker who have been slugging it out for top honours in the SA Cup series.
Strauss first had varsity duties in the form of a physics examination on Tuesday before jetting out. The 2014 Commonwealth Games rider got to ride the course on Thursday afternoon.
They spoke to Road to Rio 2016 and Strauss said: ‘It was super muddy and slippery….absolutely amazing. The track is still pretty much the same with a slight change here and there but majority the same as previous years.
‘Great training for Sunday as they predicting rain. I cant wait!’

Redecker, Strauss’ teammate on the OMX Pro Bike Team agrees: ‘That track is super slippery but they have made some slight changes and created a better start loop.
‘I’m feeling more confident on the track compared to the last two years and getting excited to race on Sunday.’

Picture of Reid in action courtesy of Shanay Jacobs


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