Pietermaritzburg - Following a tough start to the 2014 season, riding in her maiden UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg next month could be the tonic Cherise Stander needs.
The Team RECM rider has set her sights on the upcoming global event as she builds herself up for the 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.
"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 said the race itself was not her primary focus for the season so she is not taking it too seriously. She is hoping to absorb the experience of competing against the world's elite marathon riders.
"This is my first Marathon World Champs. 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."
The winter conditions in Pietermaritzburg are often cold and dry and Stander felt she was more suited to the warmth. The SA Champs, three weeks earlier, would provide a dress rehearsal for the main event, giving her a chance to assess the conditions.
"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 June 7 so I will have a better idea if the course suits me after that."
The venue held some vivid memories for Stander. It is where her late husband competed against the best in the world with distinction and she hoped to draw on those experiences.
"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."
The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on June 29.