It must have been disappointing not being able to secure a spot on a pro team for this year. Judging by your results early in the year you’re certainly in good form, both in terms of fitness and mentally. How did you overcome that initial disappointment and doubt, and does that ever come creeping back?
What helped me overcome the disappointment is that I looked at where I was, where I am now and where I want to be. I couldn’t let a small setback stop me when I feel I haven’t reached my full potential. The first few races of the year I had no expectations and just took every race as it came. This worked really well for me. The doubts start creeping in again, now that I have higher expectations and added pressure to get into a team for next year, especially when I don’t get the results I aim for.
Doubt will always be there but it is whether you let it control you which will decide if you keep going or not. I just try and focus on the small steps and control what I can.
What was behind your decision to leave South Africa for Europe?
A personal reason for me was the level of racing in Europe. It is a lot more competitive and there are XCO races every weekend. I realised, that in order to improve as an athlete, I needed exposure to this on a more regular basis.
How does living and training in Germany differ from South Africa? What are the pros and cons?
- So many cycle lanes you hardly have to train on the road. Added to that, we have a lot of trails in and around Schweinfurt. The only thing I am missing is a long and steep climb to do my 10 minute intervals on.
- Summer days are pretty awesome. You have too much daylight and have to be disciplined to go to bed before the sun sets… thank goodness for shutters.
- It is safe to ride pretty much everywhere.
- The German Autobahn is amazing. I am not too sure how I am going to stick to the speed limit when I visit SA.
- The public transport is very good but is limiting when traveling to smaller towns, where almost all of the races are.
- In Germany, the winter days are much shorter than I am used to. By the time it feels warm enough to ride and you manage to complete a session, the day is basically over.
- I don’t see many people riding, especially in winter and if I do meet someone they are usually very reserved. In South Africa most times I would go out riding alone, but usually bumped into someone and we would finish the ride together.
- There are a lot more restrictions to building trails and you have to be careful not to collide with hikers or dog walkers.
- The cost of living is higher and there are a lot of regulations, but then again things work.
- The language barrier is probably the biggest hurdle at the moment.
Does the excitement and stress of having moved countries distract you from riding at all?
The stress of the move has taken its toll but the biggest stress has been not having a financial sponsor. It hasn’t affected my physical performance but has had an effect on my mental focus. On race day, I need to try put these emotions aside and focus on the race.
We often hear about the gruelling races in the Swiss Cup. How tough is it really and are you enjoying the experience of racing domestically in Europe?
Racing domestically in Europe has been amazing and it is extra special to have Heiko with me. I am starting to get to know riders on a personal level whom I have only raced against before. On the other hand, not knowing a lot of the riders helps me focus on my own race and on being the best in the world and not just in South Africa.
Talk us through a World Cup race weekend. How does your experience as a privateer differ from when you were with a pro team?
For the Czech Republic World Cup Heiko wasn’t able to join so I had to arrange transport. I was hoping to avoid driving, but to catch a train worked out to be longer and not much cheaper than hiring a car. At least I had the company of Stuart Marais so I didn’t have to do the trip alone. It was pretty stressful driving on the right side of the road for the first time and for six hours straight. The week leading up to the race was also rather stressful, so when we got there I used most of my free time to sleep. I over rested and my body was still in recovery mode by the time I raced. Luckily there wasn’t much work to be done on my bike and during the race, I had support from the Head Ciclo XC Team.
For the World Cups in Albstadt and Lenzerheide, I was lucky to have Heiko coming with so I could focus more on my race without the extra stress.
We don’t have a car yet so we hire one for races. The usual procedure would be to fetch the car the morning before we drive to the race. We have all the luggage and food pre-packed so when Heiko arrives with the car we can just pack and leave. We plan to leave Thursday or Friday for races so I get at least 2 days on the course to practice.
Once we are at the venue we go out onto the track and check the course, with the focus on getting my lines right. The rest of the pre-race setup will be checking through my bike, going to the team managers meeting, registering and visualisation of my racing. For races, Heiko is pretty much my mechanic, masseuse, technical coach and driver. I help with the cooking and small bits and bobs.
Race day I don’t have to stress about getting my stuff to someone else. Heiko has it all sorted. What is great is that even though Heiko is there, Thomas from the Head Ciclo XC Team helps out and lets us use their team tent for warming up, if needed.
As a privateer, there are more things you have to organise yourself and don’t have the luxury of just chilling compared to being in a team. The extras of filming, photos and writing were much easier, especially when I was lucky to be part of a team with Anna Buick who is talented with writing and behind the lens. As a Privateer I have limited time. My main aim is to get the course dialled and focus for my race. If I have time and don’t feel stressed I will do some extra stuff like taking pictures of the course or doing some filming. Pre-planning is important so you have less stress closer to race day.
I think I am still lucky as a privateer that I still have some support and don’t have to travel alone. If we were not based in Europe and Heiko was not able to come to most races, I don’t think I would have had the chance to race as much as I have.
As a privateer, do you find that the other riders are any more supportive or is it all about the racing?
Your results this year have been good, has anything changed in terms of your training and preparation?
Despite the additional challenges it brings, there must be a relief in not having to please sponsors. What has your experience been in this regard?
Even though I haven’t got sponsors to please there are still friends, family and fans that I need to ‘please’. With the move, I seem to have gone into my own bubble and I have been a bit slack with communication/social media. There are a few projects and plans I would like to do but I have somewhat lacked motivation and have been just trying to figure things out without the extra noise. I am trying to find a balance and be more active on social media again since it is still important, especially if I want to find a sponsor/team for next year.
That said, even as a privateer, some level of support is essential. Who has been helping you out this season?
Stephen van der Walt helped me get into racing XCO in South Africa on a competitive level and he still helps out where he can. It is great when he and his son Daniel come to Europe, makes the races feel more like a home away from home.
John Wakefield from Science2Sport has made sure I still have the best training and has amazingly worked with my schedule and setbacks to keep me competitive and motivated.
Thomas Schroder and the HEAD CICLO XC Team have been really helpful at events, letting me use their tent, rollers and helping out in the feed zone.
From when I started working as a professional photographer Thule have helped me with products and it is great having their products when I travel. Pyga helped me out with a bike frame as I wanted to race the Pyga Stage. Squirt not only helps out with products but they arrange accommodation for us at the World Cups that have both DH and XCO.
Rush Sports helped me with some Maxxis tyres, as well as Andre van Aarde taking time from his busy schedule to share his knowledge of the industry.
What races will you be focussing on for the rest of the year?
For the final preparations for the XCO World Championships in Cairns, I will race the Swiss Bike Cup in Basel and the last World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy.
I will race the last two Int. MTB Bundesliga races. Despite being right after the XCO World Championships, these races are important because I would like to keep my series ranking of 2nd and maybe even try to win the overall series.
Cherie Redecker's Pyga Stage
- FramePYGA Stage
- Fork2017 RockShox SID World Cup
- ShockRockShox Monarch
- StemRitchey WCS Carbon
- HandlebarRitchey WCS Carbon Trail
- GripsSilicone Grips
- SaddleSpecialized Power Comp
- SeatpostRitchey WCS Carbon
- BrakesSRAM Level Ultimate
- Brake rotorSRAM CenterLine X Rotor
- ShiftersSRAM XX1
- Rear DerailleurSRAM XX1
- CassetteSRAM XX1
- ChainSRAM XX1
- CranksetSRAM XX1 X-Sync Crankset – 170MM
- ChainringSRAM XX1 Direct Mount
- RimsKnight Composite
- HubsAivee edition one
- Front TyreMaxiss IKON 2.20 3C/EXO/TR
- Rear TyreMaxiss IKON 2.20 3C/EXO/TR
- Bottom BracketSRAM GXP
- PedalsShimano XT
- Bike Computer / Power meterGarmin 500 / PowerTap G3 Hub