Bester, who has not been on a mountain bike for the past two years, set his sights on a podium position, despite the odds being against him. He duly achieved his goal when he finished behind BCX’s Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger.
“My goal was to get a podium, but I didn’t really expect to achieve that because I crashed in Portugal a month and a half ago,” said Bester, who spent this season racing in Europe.
“I got eight stitches in my calf, couldn’t walk for 12 days and I couldn’t train for about three weeks. I have only been training for about three weeks, and I am still very far from the form I had throughout my season.”
It was sweet reward after a difficult race filled with teething problems and mechanicals.
The bottle cage on his bike broke off and, as a result, he lost both bottles in the early stages of the race. Making the decision to turn back and fetch one of them, the 26-year-old then had to fight his way back to the front.
“From there onwards I had to stop at the first three water points to fill up that bottle because the cap broke when it fell off the bike. I ended up riding with the water bottle in my back pocket the whole race,” he said.
Plettenberg Bay, he said, was the ideal location to make his return as it held many fond memories from his childhood and early cycling career.
“I have been coming to Plettenberg Bay every December since I was four years old.
“This is where all my base training happened in my cycling career, where I put in all of the hard pre-season work, long hours, gym and some training with my cycling hero back then, Kevin Evans.”
Looking forward, Bester, who has spent most of his time racing in Europe for the past few years, made the difficult decision to end his time overseas and return home earlier this year.
“It was a really difficult decision to make, but I feel that it is the correct decision for my personal goals and ambitions.”
He said he hoped to be able to use the contacts he had developed during his time in Spain and Portugal to help prepare youngsters for the international stage.
Not at all ready to get off the bike himself, he said he would continue to race on the trails, dividing his attention between the road and mountain bike disciplines.
“I want to focus on my career in South Africa, so I will divide my focus and compete on the mountain bike as well as on the road.”
With his last South African race being the 947 Cycle Challenge in 2015, where he finished fourth, Bester said he hoped to be at the start again this year, as well as in a few smaller road races.
Before that, though, the 26-year-old is considering trying his luck against some of the country’s best mountain bikers at the final round of the National MTB Series, which takes place in Kaapsehoop this weekend.