It has been Stuart Marais’ most successful racing season to date and he is looking to continue this form at his fourth Mandela Day MTB Dash, which starts at the Mandela Capture Site in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday.
Marais wrapped up the Roag MTB Series when he won the Tour de Krantz in Harburg on Saturday.
“It was great to win Tour de Krantz and the main thing with that was I was able to tie up the series,” he said.
“It was the first time I’ve won the tour. In fact, it’s the first time I’m winning many of these races. I don’t think I’ve won this many before,” he laughed.
Turning his attention to the Mandela Day MTB Dash, Marais said victory had eluded him every year since its inception four years ago.
“This race has been on my mind for the last three years so I’m very keen on winning it. With my current form and the success I’ve had this year I wouldn’t expect anything less from myself,” he said.
Team Spur’s Hatherly rode a smart race last year, said Marais, and he hoped to emulate the national cross-country champion’s strategy.
“I think I’ll be able to use some of those tactics to hopefully help me get a bit of an edge on the competition,” said the Howick local.
With Wild Ride winner Andrew Hill, PYGA EuroSteel’s new signing Julian Jessop and national representative Sithembiso Masango at the start, Marais said he expected a repeat of the Eston Classic that took place earlier this month.
“Julian, Andrew and I got away from the rest of the field and Sithembiso wasn’t far behind.”
On that occasion, Marais was able to snatch the win after Hill punctured and, in a dramatic finish, a slower rider got entangled with Jessop and brought him down along the final stretch.
“There wasn’t much between all of us so it’s going to be very exciting racing on Saturday. I’m just hoping I can get a repeat of Eston.”
Reflecting on his form this year, Marais said his second place at the African Continental MTB Championships in May and his ride at the World Cup event in the Czech Republic were highlights.
“To be able to finish on the podium at an event with riders from across the continent was quite high up on my list of achievements,” he said, referring to the African champs.
“The next week in the Czech Republic I finished 72nd. It may not sound fantastic to the average rider, but it was the first time I’ve been able to finish a World Cup race and that was quite a highlight.”