The second round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series – presented by Subaru Cape Town takes place this weekend at Helderberg Farms in the Western Cape, and with an exciting pre-entry line-up of national and international riders, the hype around the event is growing quickly.
Included in those to be seen on the start line are some of the Specialized Racing team’s international riders also aiming to grab some of those all-important UCI points available for Pro-Elite Men and Pro-Elite Women at the UCI Category 1 event.
Riders that have pre-entered hail from South Africa, New Zealand, Netherlands, USA, Denmark, Namibia, Switzerland and Germany with a strong field of Elite riders as well as one of the biggest gatherings of Junior and Youth riders, and right through to the young Sprogs and Nippers. There is no doubt that the future stars are eager to test their abilities against those of their Elite counterparts on the same track.
Specialized Racing Manager Kandice Venter, who is in the country with her team for a pre-season training camp in Stellenbosch, shared some of the team’s plans whilst here: “Stellenbosch has long been the adopted home of multiple World Champion, and now Specialized Performance Director, Christoph Sauser (SUI), so it makes perfect sense for Specialized to host the Specialized Racing XCO team here for a pre-season training camp. We’re extremely excited to have the team together training in the Cape, and racing a few of the local races leading up to the Absa Cape Epic and UCI MTB World Cup season.”
The team has a busy few weeks of racing action ahead of them. “This weekend we have Sam Gaze (NZL), Howard Grotts (USA) and Simon Andreassen (DEN) competing in the Men’s category. World Cup winner, Annika Langvad (DEN) and Howard are building up towards the 2016 Absa Cape Epic in March. (Unfortunately, Langvad had to withdraw from this weekend's racing do to an illness). Sam and Simon are focusing on the upcoming XCO World Cup season, while also competing in the BestMed Tour of Good Hope and Cape Town Cycle Tour while in the country,” said Venter.
As a Junior World Champion now competing in the Men’s Elite category at the National XCO Cup, Simon Andreassen says that he feels less nervous now. “I'm feeling pretty good about it, there is not so much pressure anymore, and makes it easier for me to surprise,” he said.
Andreassen mentioned that training with the Elite riders helps better his level of racing and that it pushes him to the limit even more, thus always improving his performance and growing in strength as a cross-country rider.
When asked about the one thing that he looks forward to when coming to South Africa, the Danish youngster said: “Just to get some very good weeks of training and racing, and to be with the whole Specialized Racing team.”