Rossouw Bekker expects stiff competition when he lines up for the U23 race over a technical course at the African Continental MTB Cross-Country Championships in Windhoek, Namibia, this weekend.
“This year’s race is very different from last year and I think it’s safe to say that the strongest man will end up on top,” said Bekker, who placed fourth last year.
“The competition this year is probably the best we’ve had at African champs in quite a while and I reckon the man to beat in the U23 race will be Wessel Botha.”
He added that with last year’s race being held in Egypt, not many of the top South Africans were able to make the trip.
“It looks like quite a sharp field so I don’t want to put too much expectation on myself, but it’s important to set goals and I’d say I would be happy with a top-five.”
Bekker said last year’s course was “super flat and not technical at all”, so he felt it was more like a road race on mountain bikes.
“This course [in Windhoek] is super fun and I’m really enjoying it. I’d say it’s probably one of the best cross-country courses I’ve ridden.
“I feel that I handle the climbing well.”
He said he had spent quite a bit of time in Namibia after arriving last Monday to prepare for the event.
“My training has been going pretty steady, so I’m happy as it’s still quite early in the year.”
The 19-year-old, who launched a multi-discipline SA cycling team this year, said he and the team were looking forward to the race.
“Racing here is a lot different from Cape Town due to the altitude and dry conditions, but it’s a good challenge so we’re ready for it.
“It will be important to have a good race as it will definitely add to the confidence factor for the rest of the season.
“African champs will always have a special place with me as I won it in 2017 as a junior,” said Bekker, who races for Valley Electrical-Titan Racing.