Top South Africans tackle UK cross-country series

Brandon Stewart and Max Knox (DCM Chrome) lead a train of riders.

Brandon Stewart and Max Knox (DCM Chrome) lead a train of riders. (Image credit: Sportzpics)

There are rewards for racing hard and winning international competitions. DCM Chrome's riders who departed for England on Wednesday to compete in the British cross country series on Saturday and Sunday, are proof of that.

According to Jason Theunissen, media liaison officer for DCM Chrome, the good performances by Rourke Croeser, Adriaan Louw and Bryce Munro at the Sea Otter Classic in California, in April did not go unnoticed. Croeser and Munro won their races in their respective age group categories and Louw finished second in his.

After the event Ian van der Walt, team owner, was approached by a member of the UCI who told him that he was impressed by the performance of the DCM Chrome team. According to Theunissen, the UCI was also impressed with Van der Walt's system of identifying promising young riders and then helping them to develop into international stars by giving them the best possible opportunities.

"The UCI invited us to send a team of riders to compete in the British cross country series. They even paid our riders' entry fees. It was an offer that we could not refuse because it fits in perfectly with Ian's long-term vision for cycling in South Africa. We have therefore sent Brandon Stewart, Rourke Croeser, Travis Walker and Candice Neethling", Theunissen said.

"One mistake that is often made, is that young South African riders are sent to compete overseas when they have not the faintest idea of what awaits them. It is one thing to win races in South Africa and something totally different to compete internationally.

"Our vision for our young riders is to gradually expose them to international racing. We are, therefore, not going to send our young riders to compete abroad in the World Cup events this year. It will serve no purpose. Our riders are not ready yet to face the world's best and they will only return home totally despondent.

"The invitation to participate in England fits in perfectly with our development plans. The series will be a small step up the ladder compared with the local cross country series. It will be a challenge for our riders, but if they race hard and do not allow themselves to be intimidated, there is no reason why one or more of them might not finish in the top ten or even on the podium.

"I think Rourke Croeser's performance will be interesting to watch. In South Africa he is used to winning the junior races by two or more minutes. On Saturday and Sunday there will be more pressure on him.

"The same applies to Candice Neethling. She has won four races in the South African cross country series. In the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg she finished third, just two minutes behind Austria's Lisa Mitterbauer who is one of the world's best junior riders at the moment.

"Travis Walker can be considered to be the dark horse of our team. At the moment he is pure raw talent but he is improving with every race. As far as his participation in this week-end's racing is concerned, it is almost impossible to make a prediction. If it turns out to be one of his good days, he might just be the rider who causes the biggest upset."

Croeser is confident that he will achieve a good result in at least one of his two races. "I have raced against most of Britain's top junior riders at least once. I have beaten most of them, but I have also been beaten by them. If nothing goes wrong, I hope to achieve at least one good result. Actually, it is important for me to do well, because this might be my second last opportunity to participate as a junior internationally. The World Championship in Australia will be the last time."

"It will be my first opportunity to compete internationally, apart from the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg. I am sure that I will be nervous, but hopefully I will be able to control it," said Neethling.

Brandon Stewart is the 'old man' in the DCM Chrome team. He will be competing in the elite categories. Being experienced, he has done a bit of homework on what to expect.

"I have a friend who lives in London who told me that, as far as he could ascertain, the cross country course is not too technical. There is one tough climb on the route and a short technical section, but the rest of the course seems to be singletrack. Barring mechanical failures, the race will just require good, fast and hard cycling."

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.