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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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South African elite female cross country mountain biker Yolande Speedy has recovered from her injuries and is preparing well for the 2013 UCI MTB
South African recovered after Cape Epic crash
Top South African elite women's cross country mountain biking competitor Yolande Speedy (Epic Sports/USN/GT) is on the comeback trail ahead of the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, which take place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 - September 1, after being sidelined by a broken collarbone and two broken ribs.
Speedy sustained the injuries in a nasty crash on the second to last stage of the Cape Epic in March however; being the tough competitor that she is, Speedy picked herself back up, dusted herself off and soldiered on to not only finish the stage but the race's final stage the very next day too as she and Catherine Williamson claimed a memorable ladies' title.
Three months down the line, Speedy has made a full recovery with the 36-year-old having recently started training again as she looks to build some form ahead of this year's top event on the international mountain biking calendar.
"I obviously was out for some time with my injuries from the Epic, but I've recovered well from those now and I'm back on the bike and really working hard towards the world champs in Pietermaritzburg in August," said Speedy.
"The fitness is starting to come back nicely and I'm slowly starting to find my form and feel good again so that's positive."
Despite having racked up UCI points from her Cape Epic victory, Speedy's subsequent absence from the sport leaves her uncertain of where she stands on the international women's ranking - a crucial factor in determining what position on the start line she will be handed in August.
"It's been an up and down year for me, so I'm actually not even sure where I stand in the rankings at the moment," said Speedy.
"I am hoping to be able to push for a top twenty position at World Champs but that's quite a big goal under the circumstances so we'll just have to see how things go over the next few weeks and during the race," she added.
Injury is not uncommon territory for Speedy, having watched her 2012 UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg go out the window after a crash just days before the event left her with a broken wrist and out of the competition.
This however does not perturb Speedy and she is looking forward to this year's encounter, especially given it is on home soil for the first time ever.
"Even though I'm from outside of KZN I definitely still regard Cascades as home turf and I think that will be a great advantage for us. It is great that for once things will be familiar to us, not like it usually is when we head overseas.
"We ride various events there all the time so I know it well, and I'm looking forward to going back there again later this year.
"I probably won't have a chance to go down to 'Maritzburg to ride the course in the next couple of weeks, so I'll probably just look to go down a bit earlier in the week of the champs and try get familiar with things again then.
With the top riders from around the world set to be at this year's encounter, Speedy is reluctant to make any predictions as to who may take the title given the class and strength of women's cross country racing internationally this year.
"The European riders have been doing really well in the World Cups so far but any one of the top 10 from these events could take the world title on the day," said Speedy. "Or, there are some others who haven't peaked just yet and are waiting until they're a little closer to the world champs to so, so someone we haven't yet seen too much of might put their hand as well.
"Eva [Lechner] looks particularly strong at the moment but really, it's too tough to call at this stage," she said.