Jarrod van den Heever is aiming for at least a top-50 finish when he competes in the under-23 race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Albstadt, Germany, tomorrow.
The 19-year-old, who recently won the U23 African MTB Continental Championships cross-country race in Egypt, said he felt confident after finishing 39th in the world cup in Stellenbosch earlier this year.
“That was the best result I’ve had in the last two years and I was very happy with it. It gave me a lot of confidence knowing I can do something with the top guys,” he said.
Van den Heever, a Hermanus local who has competed internationally for the past three years, added that he still had a long way to go. The Stellenbosch race was a good stepping stone to start off with as he gained a lot of experience from it.
“My expectations aren’t very high, but fortunately I have a good starting position [47th] for tomorrow. The field is very strong and will be difficult to try and beat.
“If I can stay in the top 50 that will be great. It will be a bonus if I get a top 30 as I will then qualify for the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships, which has been a goal my whole life.”
Van den Heever said due to his African Champs win he had qualifications for it, but it would secure his spot if he finished in the top 30.
According to the Team Sharenet rider, this is the biggest world cup for U23 riders as it is located in central Europe and is easily accessible.
“The track is quite famous too and there’s always a tough field that lines up. In general there is a lot of climbing and the climbs are quite long, especially the first one, which gets very steep at the end. In between there is a drop that isn’t too bad.”
Van den Heever said he was better on the technical sections than the climbs as he was a heavy rider. The long climbs did not work in his favour, but if he could get into a rhythm quite early then it would work out.
“It’s not really my kind of track as it isn’t that technical and the downhills are basically straight forward, fast and not so difficult. If I can stay smooth that will be good.”
He feels that his toughest competition among the South Africans will be Alan Hatherly, who won the African MTB Continental Championships cross-country elite race and claimed a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games cross-country race last month.
Internationally, he will look out for Germany’s Niklas Schehl, France’s Axel Zingle, and Switzerland’s Nick Burki and Vital Albin.
“It will be good to try and race against them. All I want to do is get good results. When you’re at the back of the field you don’t concentrate on any person, you think about who is in front or behind you.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, you just have to try and beat them. It’s crazy at the back, you don’t know who your contenders are.”