The TREAD Buffalo Category became a hit in its first year, adding a whole new dimension to mountain bike racing for those weighing 90kg or more. For GD Kotzee, a former provincial rugby player, the new racing weight division was a great motivator and he became the highest points scorer of 2014. – Sean Badenhorst
What made you take up mountain biking?
My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the end of 2012. After he’d been for his treatment, which was successful (he’s still clear), he was told to improve his diet and do some exercise. He started mountain biking. I basically decided to tag along to look after him. That was early in 2013.
And you started to enjoy mountain biking, right?
That’s for sure. I fell in love with mountain biking. I was playing a lot of rugby, so mountain biking was completely different for me.
You played quite serious rugby, right, at what level?
I played for the Falcons in the Currie Cup and the Vodacom Cup. Then, from 2010 until 2012, I played for the Tuks first team. I actually played 54 games for the Tuks first team – centre and wing.
That is serious rugby! And you’ve stopped playing right?
Yes, actually with my dad’s illness he needed someone to help run his business. I’m the oldest of three sons. We decided I should move back home, to Heidelberg, and help my dad. And that’s when I graduated from rugby to mountain biking – properly…
What was your first mountain bike?
A Merida Matts TSS, a 26-inch hardtail.
You still ride a hardtail, albeit a more current model with 29-inch wheels, correct?
That’s correct. I did ride a dual suss for a while. But the Merida Team has always been my dream bike. It weights about 9.6kg. I love it!
Obviously for rugby you needed to be bigger and stronger. But
the opposite is needed for mountain biking. Do you sometimes regret having got bigger?
Actually, that’s been my biggest challenge. When I started cycling I was 105kg and my exercise was predominantly weights in the gym. When I stopped rugby and started cycling, I cut out the gym, but started doing crossfit. My weight dropped and I spent most of 2014 weighing around 95/96kg. Then, just before the Berg and Bush race in October, I made a decision to take mountain bike racing seriously. With a combination of diet and training, I am down to 87kg. That’s almost 20kg less than when I started! I had to be big and strong for rugby, so I don’t regret having been that weight, but I do sometimes envy the lighter guys, especially on the climbs!
So you are no longer a TREAD Buffalo. Is this a good thing?
It’s a bit sad on one hand, because I really have enjoyed racing against the bigger guys. But I’m only 25 and giving this mountain bike racing a full go. If I’m going to be the best I can be, I need to need the most optimal power-to-weight ratio.
The TREAD Buffalo Category, what impact did it have on your mountain biking in 2014?
It was exceptionally motivating. It was mostly at stage races and between my dad and I, we made the combined 180kg minimum weight. After winning the category at joBerg2c, we were inspired to try and win it at every race we could! It made a huge difference. A big guy like me would never have had something to aim for without the TREAD Buffalo Category. I know it’s had a similar effect on many other bigger mountain bikers too. All males are naturally competitive, no matter how much we weigh!
You raced a lot of stage races with your dad. How has that impacted on your relationship with him?
We’ve always had a good relationship. But when you suffer with someone on a bike, you grow different bonds. Nine days together at joBerg2c both on the bike and off it had its ups and down, but we’re definitely closer now.
Your combined weight with your dad allowed you, as a team, into the TREAD Buffalo Category last year. What do you think of the change that requires both riders to be 90kg or more that’s been implemented?
I think it’s a good thing. There’s definitely an advantage to having one lighter rider in a team. I think it will be a lot more even with the new rule.
So you’re looking fit and fast, what sort of training do you do in an average week?
I ride between 10-15 hours a week. That works out to 1.5–2.5 hours a day. I have a Watt bike at home so do all my intervals on that. It’s so efficient – and safe! I have to thank my parents, Arno and Marilette and my fiancé, Alta for all their understanding and support. This mountain bike racing and training is time consuming and they’ve all been great in allowing me to pursue my new passion!
What is your occupation?
We have a family business. We own three Battery Centre franchises, a car wash. An about five months ago we bought the local bike shop, Big Blade Cycles, in Heidelberg. I basically oversee operations and ensure each business is running smoothly from day to day.
What are your main objectives for 2015?
I’m training for joBerg2c. I will be doing it solo this year and not in the TREAD Buffalo Category! I am aiming for a top 20 finish, but would love to sneak into the top 10! Not sure about my goals after that yet.
What advice can you give the heavyweight TREAD Buffaloes to help them manage the suffering better in long races?
It does get tough out there. But my advice is to always keep smiling. It’s a privilege to be out in the beautiful countryside on a bicycle. If you’re struggling consistently in races, change your training because if you don’t you’ll never improve.
Weigh 90kg or more? Register as a TREAD Buffalo at www.treadbuffalo.co.za and find fresh motivation!
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 33, 2015 – All rights reserved