Pietermaritzburg – On the back of his disappointment of not being included Team South Africa at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, elite cross-country mountain biker Rourke Croeser has confirmed he will now turn his attention towards the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships which take place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 29 June.
Despite having met the event’s qualification criteria, Croeser was omitted by South Africa Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) from the national team after coming painstakingly close to meeting SASCOC’s further qualification criteria of being ranked within the top five in the Commonwealth in his discipline.
“It is obviously very disappointing but that’s unfortunately part of sport,” said Croeser shortly after the team’s announcement.
“I will now look to give Worlds Marathon Champs a full go and it’s not every day you get to compete in a World Champs in your home country so it will be a great privilege to race in Pietermaritzburg in a few weeks’ time,” he added.
Despite being a cross-country specialist, the South African mountain biking community’s thirst for marathon racing regularly sees the Kargo Pro MTB Team ace on the start line of various marathon and stage races throughout the country.
Croeser recently claimed victory in the prestigious Sappi Karkloof Marathon shortly before departing for Europe for the recent UCI MTB World Cup legs in Czech Republic and Germany and then just days after returning from his European trip he finished second behind Trek South Africa’s James Reid in the 2014 South African National MTB Marathon Championships.
His recent marathon success and familiarity of the course bodes well for Croeser’s World Champs hopes however the young star doesn’t believe the nation’s hopes rest on his shoulders.
“I don’t feel there is any added pressure on either James – if he races Worlds – or I just because we finished first and second at Nationals,” said Croeser. “James and I never should have finished first and second this past weekend, we simply just played our cards right on the day.”
“The Europeans are just also so good and I haven’t been focusing on marathon over the past few weeks so we’ll just have to see how things go,” he added.
The SA National MTB Marathon Champs were staged on exactly the same course as what will be used for the global encounter in a few weeks’ time with many suggesting afterwards that it suits technically sound competitors.
Croeser had a varying view though. “I don’t think it favours a cross country rider. I just think the course at most of our ultra-marathon races here in SA are too easy and so that’s why guys like James, myself and Brendon (Davids) did quite nicely over the weekend.”
“Given the technical nature of the course I guess my cross country background will help a bit though,” he added.
As Reid, who also missed out on selection for Team South Africa’s Commonwealth Games charge, awaits confirmation of whether he has in fact qualified to take part in the World Champs or not, Croeser believes the experienced pair of Max Knox and Kevin Evans (both FedGroup ITEC) will be South Africa’s other top contenders.
“I’d be happy with a top 20 finish at Worlds,” said Croeser. “If it’s a really good day then may be a top 10 could be on the cards but at this stage I’m aiming for a top 20.”
“James is a super consistent performer and hopefully he is able to ride Worlds because then we could possibly look to work together, rather than against each other as we had to this past weekend, to try and get a positive result for South Africa.
“Max (Knox) and Kevin (Evans) are also hugely experienced and so even though they were a bit off the pace at SA Nationals this past weekend, I’m sure they know what they’re doing with their training and will be ready to do well at Worlds,” added the Kargo Pro MTB star.
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