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Young South African cross country racers among favorites
Last year the 18-year-old James Reid (Mr Price/BMC) won 10 important races, including a South African half marathon title. He also finished 11th in the junior race at the 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in Canada. This weekend in Jonkershoek, South Africa, Reid is a favorite among those racing the 2011 African Mountain Bike Continental Championships. It will be the first time that the South African cross country racer will race in the under 23 category.
An excellent student who achieved seven distinctions in his final exams, Reid's goal after completing school is no secret even as he continues to balance racing and education.
"I am an 18-year-old athlete with the sole aspiration of becoming a cross country world champion one day. But I am also a goal-driven individual who has other interests besides a fanatical love for speed on two wheels," said Reid.
"I enjoy reading and writing, politics, economics and English. If I had not been a cyclist, or if my cycling career should not be successful, I would work towards becoming an engineer or a lawyer.
Reid will balance training and racing with taking a few classes through UNISA this year. He is living in Hilton, South Africa, under the watchful eye of his coach Johann Wykerd.
"From a mountain biking point of view, it feels as if I am living in a rider's heaven with so many trails around Hilton, Howick and Karkloof only minutes away," said Reid, who will limit his focus to cross country races with the occasional marathon thrown in.
"It is important for me to improve my world ranking as much as possible before the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Championship so that I will not have to start right at the back."
With Reid moving up from the junior to the under 23 ranks, the door is open in the junior race at the continental championships for Reid's teammate and friend, Luke Robberts.
During the cross country Worlds in Canada last year, Reid and Robberts proved that they have what it takes to beat the world's best when they finished 11th and 12th respectively.
However, Robberts is reluctant to be labeled a favourite for the junior race. "Being a pre-race favourite is new to me, and I will try to ignore it. My race strategy will be to focus on matters that I know I can control. I cannot control the weather or the way my rivals ride, therefore it serves no purpose to worry about it. If I were to do so, I would put myself under unnecessary pressure.
"Saturday's race will be a major event. It is the first race of real importance on the local mountain biking calendar and everybody will be out there to prove a point," Roberts said.
"I am quietly confident that I will have a good race, because my preparation has been going well and I am in good form."
According to Robberts, Brendon Davids and Gert Heyns are two of the riders he will have to watch.
"It is unfortunate that Arno du Toit will not be racing because he is still recovering from a broken collarbone.
"Racing against Gert is always very difficult because he is such an unpredictable rider. When Gert is hot he is boiling and then it takes a real effort to beat him. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. When Gert has a bad day, it is very bad. Nobody ever knows which Gert will be lining up for a race.
"Between Brendon and me there has been a long-running battle. In the beginning, when I just started out as a mountain biker, Brendon used to beat me constantly, but since the second half of last year I have gained a slight upper hand in our one-on-one confrontations on the bike."