Having romped to a convincing win in the under 23 women's cross country at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, Swiss golden girl Jolanda Neff will be aiming to replicate that performance in the elite women's race at the first leg of this year's UCI World Cup, also in Pietermaritzburg, this weekend.
Although the world champion is still 21, she races amongst the elites on the mountain bike World Cup circuit but is forced to race in her age group when she competes in the world championships. Currently sitting at fifth in UCI rankings for elite women she has shown she can hold her own amongst the best riders in the world.
Only riding competitively in Pietermaritzburg once has not changed her view of the upcoming event and with one win from her one appearance she seems to be fairly confident about her chances going into the event in just over three weeks.
"I absolutely love the track in Pietermaritzburg," the Liv Pro Racing XC Team star said. "It is awesome and suits my style of riding so much and even though I have only ridden on the track once I knew that it was my sort of track!"
Adapting to conditions is important for riders and being comfortable with what is presented to you makes the challenge less daunting. Neff sees the Pietermaritzburg track as a challenge, but it is a challenge that she enjoys and feels that it is perfectly designed to highlight her skills.
"The loamy ground and the lengths and gradients of the climbs are things that help, and I also enjoy the technical and rocky downhills as well as all of the other obstacles on the course.
"As I mentioned, when I rode the course for the first time I thought that the course designers had actually designed the course for me!" she said.
Having had to endure a fairly harsh winter the off season has been good for Neff who spent a lot of time along the Mediterranean training for what is going to be another taxing season of racing as riders jet off to Cairns, Australia after the first round in Pietermaritzburg.
"My off season was great! I spent time in training camps with my team (Liv Pro Racing XC) in Spain (two weeks), as well as six weeks of real quality training with the Swiss national team.
"My pre-season races in Cyprus couldn't have gone better and I won both the stage race as well as the cross country so I have some good form going into the season so I can't wait for the World Cup season to start!" she said.
Since the early season races in Cyprus, Neff has also ridden well in Europe at races like the BMC Cup. She won both of the first two rounds.
Competing against riders that are more experienced and older is a challenge that Neff has taken to well and with a respectable fifth place ranking in the world the youngster is hoping to rekindle her powerful display of riding at the only World Cup in Africa.
"I just want to go as fast as I can there and after I had such a good race there last year I really want that feeling back this year and if I can do it again then I will be unbelievably happy!
"Getting a good start in the World Cup season is important and so it is going to be tough with so many great riders out there but I think everyone else needs to watch out for the Liv Girls this year!" said Neff.
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