A significantly delayed South African XCO Champs, sponsored by Computer Mania, has attracted a star-studded field, which will do battle on the steep slopes at Coetzenberg, Stellenbosch on Saturday, 7 November 2020.

By Sean Badenhorst

A year of frustration and very little racing for most will culminate with the crowning of 2020 XCO champions from Youth through to Elite categories. No Veteran/Master titles will be contested. The venue is the same one that hosted a UCI XCO World Cup round in 2018, with a good mix of steep inclines, fast descents and technical challenges including rock gardens, drop-offs, a corkscrew-style descent and log-steps.

Mariske Strauss will be chasing the Elite women’s Computer Mania 2020 SA XCO Champs title

Rain will make for muddy, slippery conditions which will be intimidating for most, but not for the South Africans that recently contested the 2020 UCI XCO World Champs in Leogang, Austria three weeks ago.

Alan Hatherly (Specialized) will line up as the favourite to secure the Elite men’s title, which he won in 2019. The 24-year-old former Under-23 World Champion is currently in a class of his own in South Africa and unless he suffers some kind of misfortune, is certain to retain his title.

There should be a fierce battle for the silver and bronze medals though with cross-country stalwarts Phil Buys (Pyga Eurosteel), Arno du Toit (DSV) and Jan Withaar (247 Security) the names that stand out from the start list. Also in the medal hunt, will be Matthys Beukes (Pyga Eurosteel), Marco Joubert (Imbuko Giant) and Matt Beers (Team Nanotime).

The Elite women’s race will see the podium battle fought out by all three of South Africa’s 2020 World Champs representatives – Cherie Redecker (Conway Factory Racing), Candice Lill (Faces) and Mariske Strauss (CST PostNL Bafang MTB Racing Team). All three have won the title in the past, but Lill is the defending champion and Redecker the rider that showed the best form in Europe recently.

With their international racing experience, Lill, Redecker and Strauss are a cut above their local rivals when it comes to XCO racing, but should any of them falter, riders like Sarah Hill (Galileo Risk Infiniti Liv) and Amy Beth McDougall (dormakaba) will be poised to join the medal hunt.

While it’s fantastic – and impressive – that Cycling South Africa has managed to put on a national XCO champs in this pandemic-affected year, it’s important to consider what a tumultuous year this has been for the riders. For Elite athletes who earn a living from racing their bikes, most of whom haven’t been able to race much since February, the emotional impact has been significant.

Some riders deal better with this than others, but it’s a vital factor in performing well at the highest level. Only a few will understand that an Elite athlete needs to be physically conditioned and emotionally settled in order to achieve his/her potential. Don’t expect all the riders lining up on Saturday to be at their very best, but be sure to support them in any way you can, no matter how they perform.

With no recent XCO racing results to reflect on, it’s hard to say who the in-form riders are in the other categories, but expect Daniel van der Walt (Under-23 Men), Luke Moir (Junior Men), Ruan Jansen van Vuuren (Youth Men), Tiffany Keep (Under-23 Women), Andrea Schoffmann (Junior Women) and Lilian Baber (Youth Women) to be leading the title challenges in their respective categories.

Race programme here.

Provisional start list here

Live timing here.