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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Classic Colnago steel frame with gorgeous pantographed Campagnolo components
Neil MacDonald (left) and Waylon Woolcock will again contest marathons and stage races and have added the prestigious Cape Epic to their race schedule for 2012.
Roberts joins MacDonald and Woolcock on South African squad
Following a dream debut year in 2011, Team RE:CM, the South African-based professional mountain bike racing team, will tackle 2012 with a bigger team and a more ambitious racing schedule that includes some of the world's most significant events. This was announced as the team was introduced to media, sponsors and key industry figures in Cape Town on Tuesday night.
Neil MacDonald and Waylon Woolcock, who surprised many with early success as mountain bike racers in the colours of Team RE:CM last year, have been joined by rising young Olympic cross country star, Luke Roberts in the team's 2012 line-up.
MacDonald, 34, and Woolcock, 29, made the conversion from professional road racers in May 2011 and, in their first race, promptly won six of the nine stages and the overall title at the joBerg2c - one of South Africa's premier mountain bike stage races. The pair of experienced road pros competed with determination at other high profile South African mountain bike events during the remainder of the year, collecting a number of victories on the less technical race routes in the process.
The addition of Roberts to the team will ensure expansion from a purely marathon and stage racing set-up to one that includes Olympic cross country racing, the only Olympic discipline in mountain biking.
Roberts completed his final year as a junior in 2011 with distinction, winning the South African Cross Country Championship title, the South African Cross Country Cup Series title as well as the South African Junior Marathon Championship title. The 19-year-old, who finished 12th at the 2010 junior world championships (he crashed out at the 2011 Worlds), will be competing internationally in his first year in the under 23 category.
"It's fantastic to have Luke join the team for this year. He's clearly a very talented rider with a big future. As a successful asset management company, RE:CM believes in investing in the future and in Luke we believe we have made a sound investment," said Piet Viljoen, Executive Chairman of RE:CM.
Roberts will compete in high profile South African races as well as a string of international cross country events, including five rounds of the International Cycling Union's World Cup and the World Championships.
"With offices in Guernsey and Sydney, RE:CM is an international company. So it's fitting that the brand is represented internationally in important mountain bike races," said Viljoen.
While Roberts tackles at least 18 races on the cross country calendar, MacDonald and Woolcock will continue to target South African marathons and stage races. This year, however, they will step up a level when they compete at the ABSA Cape Epic. They'll also contest the opening round of the UCI Marathon World Cup Series in Sabie, South Africa, next month.
And when their mountain bike racing schedule allows, they'll represent the Bonitas Continental professional road team, where their experience and strength are invaluable.
"We are under no illusions about their chances at the Cape Epic. Most of the world's best will be competing and that means the depth of the field is significant. RE:CM is proud to have representation at this prestigious event and we're confident that Neil and Waylon will give their all and maybe even surprise us on some of the stages," said Viljoen.
"They had an excellent opening season last year and it will be a tough act to follow. But, much like our business, we have patience and understand that professional bicycle racing, like investing, is a long-term process. What's very important to us is ethics and we are proud of that quality in both our business and our mountain bike racing team."
Roberts completed his final year of school last year and finds himself in a position that many young racers dream of.
"It's great to be a part of this team. It's a very professional set-up with impressive infrastructure. Someone even prepares my bottles! All I need to focus on is riding my bike as fast I can," said Roberts. "I've heard that first year in the under 23 category is the toughest and can be a make or break year for a pro racer. I intend for it to be my 'make' year!"
"Having RE:CM extend and expand their investment in the team is obviously really great and shows their confidence in the riders and the team structure. There's an energy about the team that's very refreshing and I believe we are going to see plenty of gutsy rides by Neil, Waylon and Luke this year. And hopefully plenty of podiums too," said Malcolm Lange, owner of Lange Sports, which owns and manages Team RE:CM and Team Bonitas.