Current South African women's cross country mountain biking champion and Hoedspruit resident Samantha Sanders has been boosted by her recent triumph at the national championships to lead the South African women's charge at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 to September 1.
Heading into her first world championships, the Valencia Cycles Team rider is looking to tap into her international experience when she lines up against the who's who of female cross country racing.
"While I have never competed at the cross country championships, I did spend time competing in Europe last year and took part in a number of World Cup races and European Nationals," Sanders said.
"I have also taken part in two marathon world championships and from these experiences, I feel that I have a very realistic approach to Worlds.
"It is difficult to put into words the intensity of racing at this level and the many intricate challenges that go along with it."
Becoming the new champion of South Africa provides a serious confidence boost for any rider and it could not have come at a better time for Sanders with just a few weeks to go until the world championships begin.
"Winning the national championship definitely gives you a surge of energy and renewed motivation.
"For me personally, having started with a new coach recently, it has boosted my self-belief in that it serves as a kind of confirmation that our training recipe is working," Sanders said.
Preparations for the world championships have been quite subdued for Sanders who has not been riding competitively in the lead up to the event and has opted to take some time out to prepare herself.
"I am not doing any races at all, and I am focusing on getting myself into the best possible physical condition I can. Mentally I am starting to visualise the course, the competition and crossing the line and doing well," she said.
The track at Pietermaritzburg is very popular amongst the riders and Sanders' feelings towards the course are no different. Having ridden on the PMB track before certainly gives Sanders a chance to compete with the best because of her knowledge of the course.
"I love the PMB track. It is challenging technically, physically it takes a lot out of you and mentally it demands 100% of your concentration from start to finish.
"I favour a technical course because I am not the strongest climber, but the Cascades track has it all! I have ridden there numerous times, which is a huge advantage," she said.
Having the world championships in South Africa is something that these local riders would never have dreamed about and being able to partake in the event is even more special.
"Having Worlds in SA is... wow!" Sanders said.
"It gives all of the South African riders a massive advantage competing on a local track."
Sanders is not taking this opportunity lightly and hopes that other South African riders will do the same. Having such a massive event locally does not mean that it is any less important than if they had it overseas.
"I think many of the local riders selected to compete are actually overlooking the hugeness of world champs simply because they are racing locally and not abroad."
"I know that the elite female category has over 120 competitors, that's insane! It's a fantastic and monumental privilege that I am proud to have," said the Lowveld local.
Being able to wear the national colours at a world championships is something that Sanders is really looking forward to and being able to race against the best in the world as the best in South Africa is a rush for her.
"Lining up in my national colours is something that I cannot wait to do.
"I really cannot wait to race in my national jersey because I have worked so hard and so long for it and to be able to arrive at the World Champs in that jersey is a massive personal achievement," Sanders said proudly.
Competing at Worlds is always going to be a goal of a professional and when Sanders took the leap onto the professional stage in 2011 that was her aim. With her goal being achieved she has had to reassess and plan.
"I dreamt of being a full time professional racer and when I took that leap competing at the top level in World Cups and at World Champs has always been a goal, the fact that it is in RSA is just a special added bonus.
"My own personal goal is to race hard, beat whoever I can and finish," said Sanders.
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