Johannesburg - South African cross-country Olympian mountain biker Burry Stander rode a calculated cross-country race on Saturday to claim victory at the sixth round of the RockyRoads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Windham, New York.
The elite men's race was always going to be an openly contested affair with the absence of World Cup Series leader Nino Schurter (SUI) and Julien Absalon (FRA).
Hot and humid conditions plus a dry and dusty course with lots of climbing made for a hard race on the day as it took its toll on many of the riders, whilst mechanical failures affected a few more, blowing the race wide open.
But a steady cadence and a cool head kept Stander in the lead group early in the 6-lap, 31.90 km race, who held his lead after Manuel Fumic's suffered a flat tyre, with Sergio Mantecon and Marco Fontana in hot pursuit.
But on the last lap, Stander accelerated and built a substantial lead over his chasers, claiming the victory in 1:38:09 with Mantecon second 17 seconds behind and Fontana third.
Stander said: "For me it was a perfect race. I have always done well on this course, and always been in the lead group but then had problems at the end.
It's a course where it's easy to crash; it's very high speed. I tried to ride controlled and made sure that at the top of the climb I went into the singletrack first, and controlled the speed on the way down without taking any chances.
"You really had to ride within your limits. For me it was perfect -everything just played out to plan. Thanks to the team, it's been a long time coming."
Of equal excitement was the way in which Philip Buys progressed through the field. Buys made substantial progress early in the race to get within the top 20 positions, finishing 15th.
Enjoying the nature of the track and finding the heat somewhat of an advantage, Buys said: "I'm super stoked with my 15th place it felt unreal moving up all those places! I had a very relaxed start, from the second lap I settled into a comfortable rhythm and started passing riders throughout the race to end up in 14th, and lost one place on the last lap to finish 15th"
High Performance consultant at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Dr. Jeroen Swart is working closely with the mountain bikers as the Olympic Coach for Mountain Biking, and shed some light on the progress of South Africa's cross-country stars.
"With both Burry and Philip, the build up to the 'Games started after the 4th round of the World Cup (in May). Both athletes are in a building phase and were not expected to be in peak condition for the Canadian and US rounds of the World Cup," said Swart.