With the under 23 African Cross Country Continental Championship title already under his belt, Pietermaritzburg mountain biker Brendon Davids (Team Jeep) is eager to clinch this year's South African title as well as he builds towards the year's ultimate goal - the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, which will take place in his hometown in August.
With some large assignments on the slate, including the South African Cross Country National Championships and an all-important trip to Andora for the fourth leg of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Davids is hoping some solid performances at these important events will not only give him good confidence heading into the calendar's premier showdown in two months' time but earn him vital UCI points as well.
"The start of any big race, but especially the world champs, is just so important so having a good ranking really is crucial," said Davids. "You can't necessarily win a race off the start but you definitely can lose one so to be as close as possible to the front of the grid is huge!"
"Obviously, the more points I can rack up at South African nationals and a couple other events before world champs in August, then the better for me so that's definitely a big focus at the moment.
"[African] Continental Champs was definitely the best race I've had this season and gave me a lot of confidence so, with national champs three weeks away, I'll try draw on that as much as possible as I'm working really hard to try get the double and then go to Andora with two titles under my belt," he added.
Earlier this year, on his first European mountain biking trip, Davids tackled the first and second World Cups in Albstadt, Germany and Nové Mesto, Czech Republic respectively and believes the experienced gained from the trip was hugely beneficial.
"The trip was a huge learning curve for me," said Davids. "Racing is just so different over there with the various support structure they have. It was such an eye-opening experience!"
"I got a 34th in Albstadt and then had a good start in the Czech Republic and was sitting 16th at the end of the start loop. Unfortunately I took a hit from behind which meant I had to stop to sort out my bike and if you stop for even a second over there you're just left behind so I fell all the way back to 63rd."
"I then picked up another mechanical and so fell even further back to 93rd at the end of the first lap, so to have then finished the race in 40th position I guess wasn't too bad given the circumstances," he said.
Upon his return from the Northern Hemisphere, Davids suffered a frustrating setback as he was forced off the bike for two and a half weeks due illness; however, he is now back in training after fully recovering and feels he is on the right track to achieve his world champs goals.
"I was hit really hard with sinusitis, so it's been a bit of a slow journey back to fitness over the past few weeks," said Davids.
"I've been working hard recently to get back into as best form as possible and looking at the bigger picture I'd definitely say that I'm back on the right track after the break and I'm happy with how I'm building towards August."
With the global event taking place in Davids' hometown the under star believes the home ground advantage will help balance the playing field remarkably between the local riders and their European counterparts and also believes that the memory of the late South African cycling legend Burry Stander will be a huge motivating factor for himself and some of the other South African competitors.
"Probably for the first time ever, us South African riders will have the advantage local knowledge over the Europeans, which is huge!
"We know how Cascades holds in the mud and what it's like when its dry, so I definitely think that will be a big help for those of us who are familiar with the course.
"With Burry having passed away earlier this year and the memory of him racing in the World Cups at Cascades being what many of us youngsters' dreams were formed around, I'm sure the thought of him will be extra motivation for those of us who grew up watching him!
"He was a legend and racing for him at Cascades will be part of my motivation for sure."
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