After a tumultuous year, which included winning two national elite titles, getting married and enduring a highly publicised Olympic selection snub, multiple-time South African road cycling champion, Cherise Stander, opted to shift her focus to mountain bike racing in 2013.
After racing as a member of the Momentum Toyota team in South Africa and the Lotto Belisol team in Europe during 2012, Stander is taking a break from international road racing and will focus instead on achieving success in marathon mountain biking. Stander plans to race independently and will be backed by sports nutrition supplement brand, USN.
The 23-year-old professional racer, who married top international mountain bike racer, Burry Stander, in May, won South African titles for individual road time trial and marathon mountain bike this year, but her primary focus was the Olympic Games road race in London.
Stander gained significant public support and media exposure during her Olympic selection appeal to South African cycling federation and Olympic officials on her omission from the Olympic team. But she dropped her appeal four weeks before the Games due to the emotional turmoil it had created within the national squad.
Among Stander's career highlights since capturing the silver medal in the junior world champs road race in 2007, are four South African elite road titles (road race 2008 and 2010; individual time trial 2011 and 2012) and competing in the road race at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at the age of 18.
After dabbling in the occasional mountain bike race as part of her road-race training over the past two years, Stander upstaged all the pre-race favourites to claim the South African marathon title in 2012. With the 2014 marathon world championships taking place in South Africa, she decided to shift her focus for 2013.
"I've never really focussed on marathon mountain bike races, but I know they are a lot tougher than any road race I've ever done. I need a break from international road racing but I still love competing so will contest some of the bigger South African road races in 2013.
"But my main focus will be on marathon mountain bike races. I hope to qualify to compete at the 2013 world champs for experience ahead of 2014 when we have the world champs right in our home province," said Stander, who headed up the very successful four-rider USN women's racing team in 2011.
"I'm fortunate to have the backing of USN again, a brand that's always given me huge support. USN have always given their athletes flexibility, which allows me to structure my season with my coach, Dr Jeroen Swart, according to what we feel will be the best schedule to achieve my best results. That's important when your sport is your career."
"Cherise isn't only a talented world-class bicycle racer, she's also a very good female sports role model. We like to align our brand with inspirational heroes and it's great to have Cherise as a USN ambassador again," said Albe Geldenhuys, founder and CEO of USN.