Former professional road cyclist, David George, continued his rise up the ranks of international marathon mountain bike racing when he finished second at the Trans Germany mountain bike stage race, which finished in Partenkirchen on the weekend.
The Nedbank 360Life rider finished 60 seconds behind Switzerland's current marathon world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized), in the four-day event and collected the King of the Mountains title in the process, growing his status as one of the world's top marathon racers.
George was the most aggressive rider in the event and the only rider who looked able to challenge two-time winner and defending champion, Sauser, for the title.
"I knew that stage 1 is usually the crucial stage that sets the tone for the general classification at Trans Germany, and so I put in a big effort on the first climb. I got a fairly decent lead at one point, but it turns out I'd been a bit too aggressive and lost some time by the finish," said George.
Sauser won the opening stage and then spent the remainder three days defending his lead.
"On day 2, I moved from third to second overall, but I crashed on the final descent and lost a bit more time. The descents aren't rough and rugged like we have in South Africa, but rather sketchy and loose - almost marble-like. Takes a bit of getting used to riding fast downhill on that surface," said George.
But on the final stage, Sauser looked vulnerable. In the rainy, cool conditions, he faltered on the last major climb, allowing George to reclaim some time and move to within one minute of the Swiss rider by the finish.
"Longer stages would have suited me better, but you just race with more intensity when they're that distance," said George. "The cold weather there is different to the cold weather in South Africa. When it's cold there, it's really cold. I find I have to re-adjust to that type of cold; it requires a different energy consumption.
"My goal was to win the race, so the King of the Mountains title was a bit of a consolation prize, but welcome obviously. The Trans Germany attracts probably the strongest field at a stage race other than the Cape Epic. There was a lot of depth and quality among the riders and getting on the podium each day was certainly important."
At the 2011 Trans Germany, George was one of a few riders that missed a turn in the dire conditions on stage 1, ruling him out of podium contention. An additional case of bad luck in a year in which he and teammate, Kevin Evans, were beset with foul fortune.
"Well second place at Cape Epic and Trans Germany and wins at Sani2c and joBerg2c have certainly been a big improvement over last year!" said George.
Evans skipped the Trans Germany and the pair will begin their build-up for the second half of the year in late June.
"Victory at marathon world champs remains a high priority for us, as does defending our title at the Cape Pioneer Trek stage race and chasing the MTN National Marathon Series title again at the remaining events later in the year," said George.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Trans Germany mountain bike stage race.