After the first three races in the South African MTN Marathon Series, Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) is currently the leader. With his aggressive approach to racing, he has already accumulated 11,705 points so far this season.
The 21-year-old Lourens Luus (RE:CM) is second with 10,815 points. He is followed by Waylon Woolcock with 10,647 points, Nico Bell (Westvaal/Bell Cycles) with 9,758 points and Erik Kleinhans (RE:CM) with 9,755 points. Max Knox (Specialized/EAI Solutions), last year's MTN Series winner, is currently in eighth position with 7,717 points. It should be remembered, however, that Knox did not compete at Tulbagh.
When asked what he considers to be the highlight of his season, Keey did not hesitate to say that it was his victory at Sabie.
"Winning the Sabie Race of the UCI Marathon World Series was really very special. It was the first race of the season and my victory put me, tied with the Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, in first place on the UCI World Rankings.
"Although I did not achieve everything that I wanted to during this year's Cape Epic, it was the first time that I was able to race right up there at the sharp end, with the best riders in the world, without being physically outclassed. This experienced boosted my confidence and made me adjust my goals for the future."
Keey was always considered to be talented but, until recently, he has not really risen to the occasion. "I think I have surprised many people but, actually, my cycling abilities have been building up for a couple of years."
For a long time, Keey felt like he was not achieving his full potential. "It was crucial that I surrounded myself with people who believed in me and helped me to achieve my goals. I always had great form when I competed in the MTN Series. Unfortunately, I struggled to convert my good form into good results at times when it really mattered. There were various reasons for this."
He raced the full series calendar in 2012, but was juggling school and racing. "I actually surprised myself by winning about 15 races, including stages in Sani2C and the Karoo to Coast."
This season, he teamed up with Darren Lill, a former South African road national champion. Keey didn't wan to let him down and focused even more on his training and racing.
"More self-confidence, as well as proper coaching, also helped me to achieve my most successful season so far."
Keey is still deciding his long term cycling goals. "I will have to sit down some time to reassess where I want to go in mountain biking and what will be achievable. If I should ever get an opportunity to race on the road in Europe at the top level, I would definitely consider it. On the other hand, our local mountain biking marathon scene is really world class."
The next and fourth round of the South African MTN Marathon Series will happen this weekend in Clarens. It is doubling as a stop on the UCI Marathon World Series tour. International riders such as Steffen Thum (Ultra Sport Rose racing team), Stefan Sahm (Bulls), Pablo Morales and Tom Ettlich have been confirmed for the race.