Pietermartizburg – Team RECM rider Erik Kleinhans took some time off, after riding to a respectable eighth place in the 2014 ABSA Cape Epic, to refocus on the upcoming South African Marathon Championships before turning his full attention towards the UCI World Marathon Championships which take place at Cascades MTB Park at the end of June and, with a steady build-up thus far, Kleinhans hopes to be in top form when the world spectacle comes to Pietermaritzburg for its maiden visit.
It was an important Cape Epic for Kleinhans and his partner, RECM team mate Nico Bell, not only from a personal point of view but also in terms of gaining invaluable experience as the pair rode in support of international pair and title contenders, Christoph Sauser and František Raboň. Despite the vital role he and Bell looked to play at the Epic though, the World Champs in his home country was always firmly at the front of his mind.
“The Cape Epic was a big focus for 2014, especially riding in support for big names like Christoph Sauser and František Raboň!” Kleinhans said proudly. “We did not want to let them down!”
“But for sure the World Champs in our home country is also a big goal and I planned my season well to take a rest after Epic and then build up again to SA and World Champs.”
As it did to most others, the Cape Epic took its toll on Kleinhans but, after taking a break from racing immediately after the gruelling eight day tussle, the Western Cape resident has managed to make a solid recovery and, having put in a stellar performance at the biggest mountain bike stage race in the world, he is in high spirits heading into a jam-packed build-up to Pietermaritzburg’s World Champs.
“I recovered quite well after the Cape Epic, so I doubt that it had a negative influence on my preparation for the World Champs at all.
“I was well conditioned and felt good against some of the best riders in the World at Epic, so for sure it gave me even more confidence!” he mentioned.
With a number of other stage races happening throughout South Africa in May and June, Kleinhans has been selective about which races he is going to tackle with this weekend’s Nedbank sani2c being the next event on his calendar.
“I skipped the 9-stage joBerg2c this year as I felt that in the last few years it made me really tired, especially after racing the Cape Epic.
“Luckily after sani2c we only have one day marathon races for the last six weeks leading up to Worlds. It’s a lot of racing, but racing is also good training and it keeps you sharp,” a focused Kleinhans added.
Kleinhans took part in his second World Marathon Championships in Kitzbühel, Austria in 2013 and felt that he was not suited to the conditions which meant that he ended up finishing lower than he would have liked.
“After finishing 39th last year on a course that didn’t really suit my abilities, I set myself the goal to not be happy in 2014 with anything outside of the top 20.
“Naturally I will give it my best and with a little luck on my side hopefully I can sneak even closer to the top!” an excited Kleinhans said.
Having a World Championship event in his own country is something that does not come around often and it is a major positive for Kleinhans with the RECM star looking forward to competing against the world’s best in his own back yard.
“I am really excited about racing in South Africa for sure! It probably won’t happen again in my cycling career so it will be special no matter what!”
With two previous World Championships under the belt, Kleinhans has been improving and growing as a rider and attributes his growth to the tutelage of three-time World Champion Christoph Sauser.
“This will be my third World Champs after Montebelluna, Italy 2011 and Kitzbühel, Austria 2013.
“I will just do my normal preparation, I’ve been working hard and growing continuously over the last 3 and a half years under guidance of Christoph,” he added.
Kleinhans is married to Swiss rider and fellow Team RECM rider Ariane, who won the women’s race in the 2014 ABSA Cape Epic and will be representing her native Switzerland at the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships.
“The World Champs in SA is also a big goal for Ariane (Kleinhans).
“Even though she will race in her Swiss national kit, she is an adopted South African and sees this as her home as much as Switzerland is!” Kleinhans concluded.
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