Durban – South Africa’s first UCI Trade team Kargo Pro MTB put in another solid performance at the opening leg of the South African MTB Cup Series at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg over the weekend, securing no fewer than three podium places along the way.
The event, organized by national federation Cycling South Africa, offered participants the opportunity to earn invaluable UCI points on home turf and saw dozens of the country’s leading cross country stars take to the recently revised course.
Team ace Rourke Croeser, in his first year as an elite competitor, battled bravely at the front of the elite and under-23 men’s combined Pro Elite clash, eventually finishing third overall behind SCOTT Factory’s Philip Buys and Trek Racing’s Brendon Davids despite having suffered a nasty crash just days before which sliced multiple layers of skin off his hand, making closing his hand and gripping the handlebars uncomfortable.
“I had the perfect start and got the hole-shot,” explained Croeser. “I set a hard pace on lap one as I wanted to split the group as quickly as possible and after the first lap Phil, Brendon and myself had a 25 second lead over the rest.
“All credit to the other two though, they threw everything at me on lap two and made me pay for my first lap efforts!
“I could see the other two ahead of me throughout the lap but I just didn’t have the firepower to close them down and I was really slow on the descents before I found some good rhythm on laps four and five but it was too late by then and I had to settle for third,” he added.
Despite being a little disappointed with the outcome, Croeser remains determined, especially with the first leg of the UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg just a few weeks away and this year’s Commonwealth Games looming on the horizon.
“Not a lot has gone my way over the past couple weeks,” said Croeser. “To fight through some of the pain I was going through out there did a lot for my confidence though.
“The season is also still so young and with the thought of Commonwealth selection in mind, and the support of my team, support staff, manager and sponsors, a lot is still possible!”
Croeser was closely followed home by under-23 star Travis Walker in seventh spot overall and the second across the finish line in his age group while fellow elite competitor Stuart Marais finishing ninth after the pair enjoyed a tough contest with SCOTT Factory’s Matthys Beukes and Heart-Sports a[s]g’s Gert Heyns, Arno du Toit and Jan Withaar.
Paul Rodenbach was Kargo’s fourth finisher across the line in the race, the under-23 emerging talent finishing in a brave sixteenth place, while elite competitor Siya Njiva was forced withdraw after the first lap due to a niggling cold.
Under-18 star Marco Joubert put his hand up in the junior boys contest perfectly as the young Eastern Cape rider powered his way to a deserved fourth place despite having only recently moved into the youth category.
“Marco produced the surprise of the day for our team,” said Kargo Pro MTB team manager, Shaun Peschl afterwards. “He really has taken to the cross country scene well and I think having Rourke coaching him has also had a huge impact on his confidence!”
Peschl was full of praise for the sport’s national body for their effort to bring a UCI Category 1 event to local shores as well as for the manner in which the event was run, particularly with the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg just around the corner.
“It was awesome to see Cycling South Africa secure Category 1 cross country event for us especially with our guys, as World Cup hopefuls, as it really helps with their seeding in the A priority events,” said Peschl.
“Cascades once again did not disappoint and the riders got to race a course very close to the one they’ll be on at the World Cup in a few weeks’ time which was a huge advantage for our local guys!”
Kargo’s bicycle supplier, South African brand Momsen Bikes, added their voice of support of the team’s competitors and reaffirmed their ambitions to work together with the country’s first and only UCI Trade Team as both the team and themselves look to reach the top.
“With everyone focusing on the ABSA Cape Epic, what Kargo is doing is not an 8 day stage race, it is a 365 day stage race,” said Victor Momsen of Momsen Bikes.
“The priority for us is the start of the international season in April, and it is awesome that the first World Cup is in South Africa,” he added.
Momsen said that the coming year was key for the team as they set out to make their mark on the international scene.
“These are exciting times ahead, because we have the talent and products to really make an impact internationally. We are already seeing major global brands getting involved supplying the team, and this takes pressure off our riders because they know that they have that extra support, no matter where in the world they are competing.”
“Cross Country is where it all started, with circuit races, and all the other offshoots evolved from Cross Country,” he added. “It is the Olympic discipline, and we need to make sure that it remains the breeding ground for the emerging young talent.”
The bulk of the Kargo outfit now turn their attention towards the upcoming World Cup assignment however an exciting few days lie ahead for Njiva as he shifts his focus firmly onto his third ABSA Cape Epic adventure which he will get underway this Sunday, 23 March.
“Siya will partner Xolani Mtwetha with and, having completed two Cape Epics before, he knows all too well what is needed both physically and mentally over the nine tough days of racing he is about to experience,” said Peschl.
“We wish him everything of the best and know that he will give it his all and leave everything out on the trails!” he added.
More info can be found at www.peschlracing.com
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – KARGO PRO MTB TEAM
SA MTB XCO CUP SERIES #1
Pro Elite Men
Siyabonga Njiva (DNF)
Source: Gameplan Media