Stander targets Olympic medal
Johannesburg - Multiple South African and African mountain bike champion Burry Stander has set his sights on an Olympic medal, he said on Tuesday.
"My main goal for 2012 is the London Olympics. Everything else is secondary," said Stander, who won the KwaZulu-Natal road cycling championship at the weekend.
"I will once again team up with Christoph [Sauser] for the Cape Epic to defend our title, but that’s the only pre-Olympics deviation I’ll make.
"I will do one marathon and one short stage race to prepare for the Cape Epic, but the rest of the time I’ll be focused only on cross-country."
The 24-year-old is one of a handful of South African athletes tipped to be in with a good shot at a podium place in London at the 2012 Games.
The former Under-23 World Champion said he had narrowed his focus, compared to previous years to ensure he was as well prepared as possible for the global showpiece, which takes place in Essex on August 12.
Most of South Africa’s top mountain bike racers are preparing for a season-opening showdown at the first round of the national marathon series in Barberton, Mpumalanga, on Saturday.
However, Stander is focusing on the more explosive discipline of Olympic Cross-Country (XCO), and is committing to compete in as many XCO races as possible, starting with a regional race in Pretoria.
The XCO discipline of mountain bike racing - the sport’s only Olympic discipline - follows a lap-racing format, in which events last around one hour, 45 minutes and demand a high level of skill.
Marathon and stage racing on the other hand is more a test of endurance and recovery, with races or stages taking an average of four to five hours to complete.
Prior to the Cape Epic, Stander will race in the opening round of the 2012 UCI World Cup at the Cascades, in Pietermaritzburg, on March 17 and 18.
At the end of 2011, Stander occupied sixth place in the UCI rider rankings. He will compete in all seven rounds of the 2012 UCI XCO World Cup Series, which will conclude before the Olympic Games.
On the advice of new coach Jeroen Swart, Stander ended his 2011 racing year earlier than usual as part of his Olympic preparation and is also skipping his usual early-year marathon races.
"I want to be in the best possible condition I can for the Olympics. That requires more focus on XCO training and racing and choosing my races more carefully," he said.
"There are three years between Olympics to focus on other goals. This year, it’s all about the Olympics for me."