South African Willem le Roux has embraced his opportunity to gain “as many UCI points as possible” while racing in one of the world’s mountain-bike capitals, Switzerland.
Le Roux, who turns 33 in two days’ time, is from Pretoria but has been staying in Zug, Switzerland, for five years since relocating there at the end of 2013.
He has decided to take the opportunity to race in the famous mountain-biking areas of Switzerland and surrounds in a bid to garner enough UCI points to “improve my UCI cross-country marathon ranking”.
Le Roux works full-time for a Swiss-based multinational commodity trading and mining company.
He said he raced frequently on the local scene in 2009 and 2010, during which he won the South African GT Golden Bike Series.
A qualified chartered accountant Le Roux, who studied at the University of Pretoria, moved to Switzerland for work purposes and not for cycling.
“I’ve recently just picked it up a lot [cycling]. It’s just such a nice place and area to cycle in and around. Added to that you compete against the world’s best all the time,” Le Roux told In the Bunch today.
“That’s why I started picking up the training again. Working full-time I still compete in all these cross-country marathon races as an elite, so I’m basically racing all the professionals on a regular basis.”
He also competed in the Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge in January where he finished 15th overall, but was marked as Swiss on the results sheet.
His main focus, Le Roux said, was on UCI MTB Marathon Series events.
“I focus on all the big UCI races in which [it is possible] to score UCI points. If you place within the top 40 then you score points.
“I managed to score quite a few points which enabled me to get a good start position at worlds,” he said.
As a result, Le Roux was seeded third highest of the seven South Africans who took part at the marathon worlds.
He added that racing in Europe was “on another level”.
“The guys are really strong and the field is very competitive. You’re racing against the world’s best all the time and there is so little margin for error.
“There is also a lot of climbing,” he said. “You have to deal with really long climbs which also go up to altitude, especially in the Alps where it can go up to about 2 500m.
“It is then very technical on the descents.”
The races in Europe had taught him many lessons, he said. “I remember the O-Tour in Switzerland. I had a good race where I got quite a few points.
“Then there were a few other races where I finished just outside the points barrier, some where I didn’t have good days and others where I suffered mechanicals.
“But those [races] were still good experiences because you always learn something and take something from it.
“The highlight this year, for me, was basically to be able to compete in the world champs and be part of the experience.”
Looking ahead, Le Roux expects to build on the progress he has made on the bike this season.
“I’ve just had a massive season in terms of all the training I’ve put in, so the base at which to start off next year will be higher than this season.
“I just want to continue building and see how many more points I can get in these races.
“I would also like to qualify again for the world champs next year and try to improve on my finishing position.”
He also wants to take part in more South African races next year. “I’m doing the Cape Epic [in March] next year, so that will be a big focus for my partner and me.
“That’s the plan for next year. It’s all on the list and it will just be about prioritising them [as the season unfolds],” he said, adding that he did not plan to move back to SA “anytime soon”.
Le Roux will next focus on the 85km Extrême Sur Loue taking place in France on October 7, another race that is part of the UCI MTB Marathon Series.