At 19 years of age, Julian Jessop is looking to learn as much as he can from his fellow riders as he kick starts his mountain bike stage racing career.
The young Umhlanga local has yet to find a permanent mountain bike stage race partner, having only started his stage racing campaign towards the end of last year.
The U23 cross-country national champion said having a fixed teammate allowed riders to build rapport and get a feeling for each other’s style of racing.
“Racing with the same person, you get to know them and you can plan your racing better,” he said.
He said not having a fixed teammate, however, came with the benefit of having the opportunity to learn from a number of different riders.
“My first race was the Cape Pioneer Trek with James Reid last year, soon after he had just competed in the Olympics.
“With him I basically learnt how to ride a stage race, I got a foundation with him and also learnt how to really dig deep,” said Jessop.
“That was a very hard three days. The pace was super high and I learnt a lot with regards to time management and knowing my limits.
Jessop then went on to tackle the Tankwa Trek alongside Tristan de Lange.
“He never gave up whatsoever so that’s what I took from him. He was also a lot of fun to ride with,” he said.
The Freedom Race in April was Jessop’s next challenge, which he tackled with Andrew Hill.
Their debut appearance resulted in a top podium position for the TIB Insurance duo.
The two will be pairing up again to defend Hill’s title at the dusi2c, which takes place next month.
Jessop said he felt he had grown as a rider through the partnership with Hill.
“Him being the older rider he has more experience and he has helped me to pace myself and find a good rhythm.
“Off the bike he also helps with the discipline of recovery that, as a younger rider, I’m still developing.”
The KwaZulu-Natal pair first met roughly four years ago, when they raced against each other.
“Since then we’ve raced together twice and our relationship has definitely grown.
Jessop said he didn’t feel too much pressure in the build-up to the dusi2c and was going into the event with the aim to simply do his best.
“If I do that then I can’t be upset with myself. I think we have a good chance and hopefully we can defend his title,” he said.