Junior racer Reid crams his weekend's racing in between maths exams

Neethling the favorite for South African cross country round

James Reid (Specialized/Mr Price) will have to do some quick mathematical calculations from Friday to Sunday if he wants to stay unbeaten in the MTN National cross country series for juniors which will take place over the coming weekend in George.

If he wins on Saturday, Reid will have proven that he is a true champion, because by Sunday afternoon he will have learned the true meaning of the word "hectic".

Reid, who is a matriculant in Pietermaritzburg, is in the midst of exams and he will write his first maths paper on Friday morning. Virtually the moment he puts down his pen, he will have to rush off to the airport to fly to George. He may or may not have time to pre-ride the course before Saturday's race.

Being in a private school, Reid was scheduled to write his second maths paper on Saturday morning, but he managed to make arrangements to postpone it to Sunday morning. This means that, immediately after the race, he will have to rush off to the airport again.

The ever optimistic Reid admits that his circumstances are not ideal for either writing exams or racing, but he feels up to the challenge.

"In a way I am glad that things are happening the way they are, because if I do get selected to represent South Africa at the World Championship later this year, it will also be a juggling act between my studies and racing. So this weekend will be a good trial run to see whether I can cope."

Reid, who won the first national cross country event in Alberton as well as the Cascades in Pietermaritzburg, admits that he is worried about Saturday's race.

"I don't want to advertise it, but George is the one race in which I can be beaten. I do not have fond memories of racing there. Last year I had a terrible race in which I crashed. If the course is the same as last year, it will definitely not suit my riding style. It is too bumpy and flat."

Reid tips his training partner, Luke Robberts, as the rider to watch. Both of them are coached by Johan Wykerd.

"I can honestly say that Luke and I have the best coach. Johan is just so passionate about what he does. For example, there is no other coach who will be waiting for you at the finish at every national event, to listen to your account of the race. Luke is in awesome form at the moment. His finesse when it comes to riding single track certainly counts in his favour.

"Travis Walker can also be a factor to reckon with. Everything will depend on how he starts his race. Sometimes he starts off too slowly and then ends up having to play catch up during most of the race.

"I think my teammate, Arno du Toit, can also be a factor. He proved during the Karkloof qualifying round for the shootout, that he is one of the fastest starters. His qualifying lap time was faster than Burry Stander's. That took some doing.

"It will help me on Saturday if Arno can again have a good start and manage to get out in front to control the racing. If that happens, it will give me time to settle down and then work my way up towards the front."

As far as Saturday's junior women's race is concerned, it will be a huge surprise if Candice Neethling (DCM) does not win.

However, Neethling has been through a tough time during the past few weeks, having fallen twice on her right knee. The second time she had to go to hospital and was anaesthetized to allow the doctor to clean the wound.

Neethling is slightly embarrassed about her second crash. It happened during Sunday's Karkloof half-marathon in Pietermaritzburg.

"It was so silly. The whole course was technical with lots of rocks and other stuff around which you had to negotiate your way. I was doing fine until we came to an open gravel road. I saw a tree along the road, but I thought I would be able to pass it easily. I was wrong. I got trapped by one of the really stiff branches and went down hard on my already injured knee. It was very painful."

Neethling is confident that her knee will not be too much of a problem during Saturday's race.

There is no chance anyway that she will miss the racing at George, because the cross country races are the only opportunities for her to race with the pro-elite women and really test herself against them.

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