Keira Duncan is the best Enduro racer in South Africa currently. He’s won almost every local race he entered in the past two years. Almost. He’s shown that he’s able to compete – and win – on any course in any conditions it seems. Although he acts mature, he’s only 22. He’s got a bright future for sure. We caught up with him and asked him some burning questions.
By Sean Badenhorst | Intro image: Chris Taylor
Although physically diminutive, Duncan’s presence is far from that. The young man with a ready smile is purposeful in everything he does. He doesn’t specifically mention it, but by default, he always makes you wonder about your own diet, this guy that travels with a blender that makes very green drinks.
When you meet a young bloke that’s so focused on his nutrition, you just know that his bike, gear, training and racing are all meticulously considered. And it shows. He gives himself enough time to check out the stages at a race, works out where he can find some speed and then sets about finding it.
This includes jumping over rocks that most won’t consider an option. At 54kg and 160cm he’s probably got an advantage over most. Duncan has this ability to pop and pump and look composed no matter how risky the line – or lack of line – is that he’s on. And you’d think being that small he’d lack power; if he does, he doesn’t show it.
Although he set the fastest time at the 2023 South African Enduro Champs in Pietermaritzburg recently, Duncan was given a five-minute time penalty for using a wheel given to him by a fellow competitor after he damaged his. In races where fractions of a second count, it was as impactful as a disqualification.
However, it showed Duncan’s spirit and commitment to success. He wanted to finish the event that he’d started, even if it meant having to sacrifice a medal. While his name isn’t high up on the results, even his closest competitors acknowledged his superiority on the day. And sometimes, that’s all you need to be satisfied.
Duncan has a full-time job – he’s the Trail Manager (and builder) at Karkloof Country Club, where he is responsible for around 300km of trails. We always knew that Duncan was a fast, smart Enduro racer, but what really got our attention recently, was Duncan’s impressive European trip, where he finished on the overall podium (top 3) in all five races that entered – in four different countries.
We asked him some questions about this and his plans for the future.
You went to race in Europe a couple of years back, but had to cut it short because of an injury, correct?
Correct. Unfortunately, I dislocated my shoulder while racing overseas the last time.
How long was your 2023 European campaign?
Give us a summary of your racing itinerary while there.
Five weeks, five races, busting it out every weekend. What a time!
27 August, Senators Enduro, Montecreto, Italy.
3 September, SloEnduro, Gorjanci, Slovenia.
10 September, Austrian Enduro Champs, Kitzbühel, Austria.
15 September, EDR Open Race, Chatel, France.
24 September, 4Enduro/Italian Enduro Series, Santa Maria Maggiore Vigezzo, Italy.
Why did you choose those particular races?
I chose to focus on racing regional level races in Europe, so I could gain essential experience and training at some smaller events before taking on something like the UCI EDR World Cups. The level is really high in Europe; it’s particularly competitive in Italy and France so I knew there would be a lot of competition and challenging trails. The smaller events gave me a better chance at getting some decent results, networking and learning the ropes.
What were your expectations of how you would fare in those races?
In the beginning I wasn’t sure where I would land up. New terrain, big mountains and lots of fast riders. I really wanted podium finishes but honestly was just hoping for top 10 results.
Did you meet those expectations?
Very stoked to say I did!
What were your results at each race?
Senators Enduro: 2nd overall
SloEnduro: 1st overall (3 stage wins)
Austrian Champs: 3rd overall
UCI EDR World Cup Chatel: 3rd overall
4Enduro: 3rd overall
At the UCI EDR World Cup, did you race the same stages at the Pros? If yes, what was the time difference between the top Amateurs and the top Pros?
Yes, I raced the same stages as the pros excluding one stage. They had an extra stage.
The events were two days apart, so conditions were very different. It rained days prior to my race, while there was just enough warm weather to dry up the tracks for the pros. Hard to compare under the said conditions, but I think there was a good two minutes that separated top Pros from the top Amateurs.
What was the major difference between those races and the South African Enduro races?
The scale of the typical European enduro compared to ours is simply a level up. Hard to pinpoint which major difference to highlight but from what I gathered, most European enduros have at least 300 competitors, and when it comes to the course or race stages, it’s no joke that the European mountains utilised are a lot bigger than most mountains we use in SA. Every race had at least one or two brand new trails too, which were first opened for official practice the day before race day. Overall, the events are bigger, more competitive and demanding of a rider’s skill, experience and also ability to be strategic to do well against so many other fast riders.
What bike did you take with you?
Pyga Slakline HP4 (Slakline high-pivot fourth generation), Small frame, 160/170 suspension, South Industries 29” Enduro wheels, SRAM brakes with Galfer discs and brake pads, 720mm aluminium handlebars.
You seemed to do the trip solo by road. Is that correct?
I did the trip solo, yes. I made the decision to rent a van to minimise the stress and pressure that comes along with travelling from venue to venue on public transport. It was not my initial plan, but once I was in Europe it was clear to me that I needed my own wheels (or perhaps to travel with a friend/team) in order to focus on racing, reduce stress and not expend unnecessary energy on getting from race to race.
Who funded your trip?
I funded the trip entirely on my own. I have been saving up/raising funds since I came back from my short stint overseas in 2019.
Do you think we host world-class Enduros in SA?
No doubt SA hosts excellent events – this 2023 season has shown noticeable improvements too. It’s hard to run world-class events with little budget but I believe we’re on the right path. Having a budget for building new tracks (it could even be just building a few new sections of track) for each event would be excellent. Having freshly cut track in an event truly tests a rider’s ability and I think that’s what a big part of racing is about? Also makes it fresh and fun.
Apart from a couple of races, you have been the dominant Enduro racer in South Africa for the past two years. Do you aspire to race internationally more in the future?
It’s my dream to race internationally, with the goal of racing professionally. It’s been a dream of mine for many years now and I’m really happy to have made some progress in that journey this year.
Follow Keira on Instagram here for some insight into his daily life, his diet, his bike and gear and his racing: