Leading South African under 23 cross country mountain biker Rourke Croeser has set his sights on a stellar performance during the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa from August 26 - September 1 as he looks to make full use of his wealth of international racing experience as well as the advantage of racing at home.
Having grown up in Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal's Zululand region, Croeser was then fortunate to have spent two years living in Europe and competing on the local mountain bike circuit, something he feels has helped him immensely in his journey as an under 23 competitor thus far.
However, with Ballito on KZN's North Coast where he now calls home and regular training trips and competing in countless races at Cascades, Croeser is relishing the opportunity August's global spectacle presents.
"I have really high hopes for the world champs," said Croeser. "I've been to Worlds since I was a junior and this will be my fifth World Champs I've competed in, so I now know what to expect, and I'm really looking forward to this year's event."
"The fact that the event is being held at Cascades is also a huge benefit to us locals. We can go up there and train on the course whenever we like and we race there all the time.
"Just last week, I was up there twice in five days, riding sections over and over again, and in the next 10 weeks building up to world champs, I will complete over 60 laps of the course in world champs' specific training, which can only be a good thing!" said the Orange Monkey rider, who competes in the colours of Kargo MTB Pro team locally.
Familiarity with the route and surroundings, the comfort of being close to home and the support of the local crowd are all small elements on their own however when added together, Croeser believes play a vital role in developing a smooth routine in the period just before race day - a huge advantage he will have over those travelling from abroad.
"I really know the course at Cascades, and for some reason it just seems to suit my style of riding. I don't know what it is, but I just feel good on that course which really helps you prepare mentally.
"Having done as many laps as I would have by the time Worlds get here also gives me huge confidence. I'll know beforehand what sort of tyre choices, tyre pressures, gears and the rest of the set-up works best for me in almost all conditions.
"Also, because I know the course and my strengths and weaknesses on that course so well, and because I can picture it in my head so clearly, the other day in training, I was able to measure out the 300m start straight and picture it being at Cascades as it will be on race day.
"I sat stationary for five minutes so the muscles went cold, as they will do when we're waiting on the start line on race day. Then I went for it and pushed as hard as I will during the start on race day.
"So I've been through all that, its familiar to me and, importantly, it won't be new on the day of the race which all plays a part in helping settle the nerves and allowing me to focus on the race itself.
I will also get myself a place up in 'Maritzburg for the week before the race. I'll stay up there and just make sure that I'm as comfy as possible, don't have to travel too far and try take out as many of the little stresses as possible.
"It's those little comforts that all add up and make a big difference and when you look at the margins that we're dealing with, that little bit really counts at this level," he said.
Apart from seeking a top personal performance Croeser is both hopeful and confident the rest of his under 23 local competitors have a solid outing on race day as many look to burst into the cut-throat environment of elite racing in the next year or two.
"I really believe our local guys can do super well at world champs this year, possibly even having four riders finish in the top 20!" said Croeser.
"James (Reid) knows how to do well in 'Maritzburg, Brendon (Davids), if he gets it right on the day, can do really nicely and a couple of the others are going really well, so hopefully it all just comes together for all of us on the day of the race.
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