Following a tough start to the 2014 season, the iconic Cascades MTB Park and the legend of her late husband Burry could be the tonic that Cherise Stander needs as she heads into the weekend’s South African National MTB Marathon Championships and her maiden UCI MTB Marathon World Championships that gets underway in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June.
The Team RECM rider has had a tough start to the year by her own admission but has set her sights on the upcoming global spectacle as she works hard building herself up for the tough 74km route that will take riders through the Cascades MTB Park and around the surrounding landscape of Pietermaritzburg.
“It’s been a bit of a bumpy start to the year,” Stander said. “But at the moment I am training hard and focused on the event.
“I have been focusing on trying to get my strength up so I have been doing a bit of work in the gym and also focusing on power intervals.”
This will be a debut World Championships for Stander who explained that although her focus is very much on the race it is not her primary focus for the season so she is not taking herself too seriously and is just hoping to take in the experience of competing against the world’s elite marathon riders.
“This is my first Marathon World Champs so the race won’t be the main goal for the year, I am just doing it for the experience.
“I really have absolutely no idea what to expect from this race and the main goal is to get through the race and finish,” a relaxed Stander added.
The winter conditions in Pietermaritzburg are often cold and dry and Stander believes that she is more suited to the warmer conditions and with the South African Champs providing the dress rehearsal for the main show three weeks before, she believes that will give me a chance to assess whether conditions will be favourable for her.
“KZN gets really cold in June and I am usually a bit better in the heat but having said that racing in your home country is always an advantage.
“We will be racing the course at SA Champs on the 7th of June so I will have a better idea if the course suits me after that,” she explained.
Having supported Burry at the Cascades MTB Park on a number of occasions, Cherise has some vivid memories of her late husband competing at the venue and taking on the best in the world with distinction and drawing on that is something that she is hoping to do.
“The Cascades MTB Park is a place that is very close to me and it definitely will be motivation.
“I have some amazing memories of Burry fighting his heart out there so I will definitely be thinking of him and his never say die attitude when I’m tired,” a determined Stander said.
Travel is a large part of the modern professional South African mountain biker’s itinerary so being able to take part in such a prestigious event in your own country is always a bonus due to the slight levels of administration involved.
“I am really looking forward to not having to travel so far! It is also great that all my family and friends will be able to watch the best in the world compete against each other,” she mentioned excitedly.
Having spent a bit of time off the bike and working on her strength Stander believes that she will be ready for the World Champs and has one race after the South African Marathon Champs before the big event to fine tune.
“I’m getting there! It’s a bumpy road but I’m making progress slowly but surely and with the Hilton Classic the week before the World Champs I will be prepared!” she concluded.
The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June.
More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za