Pietermaritzburg – Max Knox, one of South Africa’s most widely recognized mountain biking personalities, is excited by the upcoming UCI MTB Marathon World Championships which take place at Cascades MTB Park and surrounds, and the local challenger is quietly confident that he can achieve a career-highlighting top 10 finish in the men’s 95km clash on Sunday 29 June.
The FedGroup-ITEC ace recently showed he is currently in good form when he and team mate Kevin Evans stormed to victory in the 2014 Nedbank sani2c three day long stage race from Underberg to Scottburgh.
The victory has given Knox good momentum and confidence going into the global showpiece and he recently admitted a top ten finish is something that has crossed his mind, despite realizing there is plenty of work still to do.
“You do always have to have goals and a top 10 at Worlds is an excellent result, one which you can be proud of, and I definitely think that is a realistic goal for me this year!” said Knox.
“I struggled with my knee at Worlds last year and finished thirteenth but I finished sixteenth two years ago and, with home ground advantage and a bit of luck, hopefully I can shave off six or so places this year in Maritzburg.”
“It was nice to get the win at sani2c but now it’s about maintaining the really hard work and training right because sani was tough but the level at Worlds will be a lot, lot higher!” he added cautiously.
Starting and finishing at Cascades MTB Park, the men’s 95km route will take competitors on a journey through a multitude of different ecosystems, each offering spectacular views and unique challenges and combining to create a spectacular stage upon which the event’s action will unfold.
“Maritzburg and the surrounding areas are like the mountain biking Mecca of Africa!” exclaimed Knox.
“The cross country course for this year’s World Cup was rated the single best course in the world! If that’s what Nick (Floros) can put together over five or six kilometres then imagine what might be in store for us over 95km!”
“I’m definitely expecting an excellent route!”
Performing in the most prestigious international marathon event on home turf is something that has Knox particularly excited. “It is very unique and incredibly special to compete in a World Championships in your home country and if ever there was a time to really look to put in a great effort at international level, it is now!
“I think everyone from South Africa, and even Africa, will be behind this event and our local riders.
“Burry (Stander) got a third in 2010 and Kevin (Evans) an eighth in 2009 so we have had a couple of guys get really good results before but, with home ground advantage, I definitely think a couple of South African’s could shine this year!
Despite the possibility of him and his fellow South African competitors having superior knowledge of the course come race day, Knox is still highly respectful of the visiting international stars’ and expects them to be able to adapt to the conditions well.
“Cascades and the surrounding area does offer a different challenge to those from the Cape, which is where those international guys who have been to South Africa would have been competing and training, so we will have a slight advantage over them there I suppose.
“These guys are the best mountain bikers in the world though!
“There’s no doubt they’ll be extremely well prepared and ready when they get here and, with mountain biking being such a global sport these days, most of the top guys are competing on all kinds of different surfaces and in different conditions all the time.
Knox believes the local hospitality will also nullify any advantage the locals may gain from their superior course knowledge.
“As South African’s we’re so naturally accommodating and friendly to visitors, which plays a role in why the overseas guys are able to settle quite quickly and love coming here so much.
“We’re almost as warm and supportive of the international competitors as we are our own riders whereas, when you get to Europe and the likes, the crowds there are so passionate and patriotic that it becomes quite tough being a visiting competitor.
“It will definitely be a help for us South Africans racing at home but I think the international guys will adjust very quickly.
Knox is also expecting little team work and cooperation amongst the large South African contingent set to tackle this year’s Worlds as each looks to fly the nation’s flag high.
“As a nation we’re naturally pretty competitive. So, where some countries will ride for a national leader, I doubt we’ll see too many of the South African’s helping each other and working together too much because everyone wants to do as well as they possibly can personally.
“We have some great riders though and it will be really interesting to see how the guys go at Worlds. I’m sure we’ll have a couple of guys up there this year!” said Knox.
The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media