Kent Main was always a man to watch, but victory at the Tour of Good Hope in March set him on a new path.
The former RoadCover rider won the third stage of South Africa’s top stage race before unseating overnight leader Myles van Musschenbroek on the fifth and final day to win by one second.
The 21-year-old said his victory was exactly what he needed to get his name out there – not just as a competitive rider, but as a contender.
“I was always someone who was competitive and somebody to look out for at a race, but I was not necessarily the guy who was going to win the race.
“I think winning the queen stage showed my ability and then dealing with the pressure on the last stage on that climb (to the top of the Taal Monument) proved to them I did have the skill to read a race and work for myself.”
Main found himself in talks with Kevin Campbell, sports director for Dimension Data’s Continental squad, soon after lifting the trophy.
“He basically offered me the contract and obviously I wasn’t going to turn it down,” said Main. “It was quite a big moment in my career.”
From there the Linden resident made his way to Italy where he had his eyes opened to the heightened level of international competition.
“Going into Europe you learn a lot, not only with the team, but about yourself too.
“The amount of suffering, hard work and races – you go through motions you can’t even describe,” he said. “Mentally it really does break you, but then it makes you as well.”
Main said he had learnt “simple stuff” such as the importance of correct nutrition, how to fetch water bottles from the team car and how to deal with pressure situations such as mechanical issues.
He said he also learnt from watching others.
“You learn a lot from them and the way they ride, as well as the professional manner in which they conduct themselves. You soak everything in from everyone around you.”
Having initially struggling to combine as a unit, Main was part of the team’s great success at the Baby Giro in June where Nicholas Dlamini won the King of the Mountains title and Joseph Areruya the fifth stage.
He said they soon realised teamwork was required to reach their goals after a month of living, eating and training together.
“From there you could see the team dynamics improve and with it the results.”
Despite racing without the support of a team, he continued to impress when he returned home earlier this month to race in the Jock Tour.
He made his mark, as planned, in the time-trial and eventually finished the mountainous three-day event fourth overall.
Although Main felt he was on the right track, he admitted he still had a long way to go after racing in Europe had shown him he was far from where he needed to be.
“Everybody’s dream is to race overseas, to make it to the next level. All of this has reassured me that cycling is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”