Marais, who was seeded 48th before the event, finished 75th in a field of 99 riders, among them a vast array of world-class international riders. He was the highest-placed of seven South African riders.
“To finish a world cup is quite an achievement in itself; people don’t realise how high the level of the Europeans is and how fast they go,” Marais told In the Bunch after the race.
“I feel content about the result, considering,” he added.
Marais said he got off to a good start, playing it conservatively in order to tactically take control in the last few laps.
His plan did not work out, however, as he suffered a few setbacks as the race wore on.
“I felt quite good [in the beginning] and I tried to be more conservative, so I kind of let some riders overtake me.
“I knew if I tried to stay with them I would pay for it later in the race. I wanted to try to reel in the guys who overtook me with every lap.”
It was working well until the last couple of laps, Marais added. “I was struggling with stomach cramps around the fourth lap.” That set him back badly, he said.
“On the final lap I got a stick in my rear wheel. In South African races we would normally stop to get it out without any harm [to your chances].
“Today I stopped and suddenly five guys just went past me. That is the kind of level – in international racing – we had to deal with.
“It is so tight and there is very little margin for error; five to 10 seconds can cost you five places.
“Overall I was quite happy with how things went.”
Together Marais and Kruger won the overall TransCape MTB Encounter title a month ago.
“I was asked after TransCape to do the Epic with him,” he said. “It will be my first one so I’m not quite sure what to expect.
“But we are targeting a place in the top 10 and the African jersey will also be quite high on the priority list.”
Marais has had a testing season so far, but he is looking forward to the forthcoming events in an attempt to make a statement.
“I took a bit longer to recover from the TransCape than I had anticipated and the world cup [today] was a major peak for me.
“After Epic, I still have the national MTB series. I will have to plan my season from there, because, financially, I do not know if I will make it to June/July without a title sponsor.
“There are key events that I would like to go to such as the African champs in Egypt late next month. I will be able to get a lot of points there in terms of UCI ranking.”