Alberton - Multiple South African and African mountain bike racing champion and London Olympics medal contender, Burry Stander (Specialized USN), cruised to a comfortable victory at the final round of the South African Cross-country National Series at Rietvlei Farm, Alberton at the weekend.
After having missed the first three rounds of the country’s most prestigious cross-country series, Stander, currently ranked fourth in the world, had no chance of challenging for the series title. His reason for competing was purely to add some prestige to the event and “help boost cross-country racing in South Africa”.
Philip Buys (Garmin adidas), who finished second behind Stander at the weekend, claimed the overall Elite men’s National Series title. But with fewer than 20 South Africans competing in the 2011 Elite men’s category in the series, Stander’s concerns for his favourite discipline appear warranted.
“The National Series is meant to be the pinnacle of domestic cross-country racing. But there doesn’t seem to be much focus on this by SA MTB,” said Stander afterwards. “We have a cross-country World Cup round in South Africa now and will have the World Championships in 2013. This is such a privilege and no doubt a result of hard work by our administrators. But I worry a lot about cross-country, the only Olympic discipline in mountain biking, and its struggle on a national level.”
Saturday’s round of the National Series was organised by Wendel Bole, a Masters category cross-country racer, who also manages the Rietvlei Farm Bike Park, along with Central Gauteng Cycling, the provincial management body for cycling.
“The National Series is the responsibility of SA MTB to organise and promote,” said Bole. “But there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether this final round would even take place.
“I decided to make it happen. I got Sarens on board as a title sponsor and got support from various other brands that have a passion for mountain bike racing. I also asked Burry to come and race and he accepted, even though he’s in the middle of his international racing season.”
“I’ve just come from a race in Prague in the Czech Republic and can tell you that the sport of cross-country racing is very healthy there! My international Specialized Racing team-mate, Jaroslav Khulhavy, the current world No 1, isn’t their only good rider. They have nine riders (men and women) in the top 100 in the world and a strong crop of youngsters coming through. But they are in that position because they place a lot of emphasis on their national cross-country series. We need similar focus in South Africa if we are to grow cross-country racing, both in numbers and depth,” said Stander.
"Thanks to Wendel, Central Gauteng Cycling and all the sponsors, including my personal sponsor, USN, for seeing value in cross-country racing and coming on board at such a late stage to ensure this event took place," said Stander.
The Elite and Under-23 Men’s race was the final event of a full day’s racing that included all youth and veteran age groups for both men and women. For full results of Round 4 of the National Series and overall Series standings for 2011, visit www.cyclingsa.com