James Reid made the trek from South Africa to Quebec to compete in the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in Canada this weekend. He is one of several young riders trying to follow in the footsteps of established South African pro Burry Stander (Specialized). But it's not easy traveling from so far away to where most of the World Cup races are held.
"Coming from South Africa, it's hard to gauge where you are," Reid told Cyclingnews after finishing fifth in the U23 men's cross country race. "I follow these guys and track them and to race with them is exciting. I don't get to race with them often."
Reid noted that there is good elite-level marathon and stage racing in South Africa, but not so much cross country racing.
"There's two sides to being in South Africa. If I stay there, we have high quality racing and we have some of the best marathon racing in the world. You stay fresh and you're not caught in gloomy Europe. You have access to people you know and training you know. You can tap into mentors and guidance easier than in Europe." The flip side is that he rarely gets to race the world's best riders, many of whom are based in and racing in Europe and occasionally in North America.
Reid rode to a podium finish at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and he's optimistic for next weekend's World Cup in Windham, New York.
"To come out and travel and race and to know that I'm good in a back-to-back weekend is exciting," said Reid. "I did Houffalize, but I was sick in the build up to it and was 26th - one spot off points. It was good but not the season I was looking for. I got into a training rut and took off the third and fourth World Cup. Thankfully I feel better now."
Reid surprised himself at the World Cup opener this season in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. "The South Africa World Cup was good - we have good weather in December and January and I could train well. It was a shock to the system. I was 30s and 40s at World Cups last year and to suddenly race into fourth at Pietermaritzburg was a mind shift. You have to commit to it, embrace it and do it properly.
"It's always a risk from South Africa... bringing people and equipment is a big gamble that you take. It's full of highs and lows. When it's good, it's really good and when it's bad, it's really bad."
Reid is looking forward to the world championships in September in Austria. He'll head to Europe ahead of time to do some UCI cat. 1 races to get some last minute race fitness in his legs. "That race intensity and being able to ride the technical stuff as well as European guys is key. They are not stronger than us, they are just smoother and able to save in the right places. I come from a high power, lot of training background, but not a lot of race-like training. They do more race-like training than us."