Team owner Shaun-Nick Bester has expanded his Darkhorse Wheels Pro Cycling outfit by signing promising junior rider Leonard van der Merwe.
The professional mountain-biking team, which also includes Timo Cooper, acts as a direct feeding structure for talented junior or U23 cyclists.
“Leonard is a second-year junior from my coaching academy. As I promised when I started the team, the academy riders will be the number one choice to be incorporated into the squad,” Bester said.
Thanks to Van der Merwe’s strong results this year, including podium placings in various MTB races, he has been brought on board as a stagiaire until the end of the year.
“I’ll mentor him and give him the opportunity to show if he has what it takes to sign a permanent contract in 2020,” said Bester.
Grateful at having been selected, Van der Merwe, 18, said it was an honour to be able to say he was riding for this established team.
“It’s been a dream of mine. I hope to become a pro one day soon through learning what becoming a champion is really about.”
He hoped to work his way up to a professional contract by training and putting in as much effort as he could, while keeping the team’s name high.
“I feel great about my form so I hope to execute the best performances from my side to keep everyone happy.
“It will also be a great honour to race beside Timo as he has top achievements under his belt such as placing 14th overall in the 2015 Cape Epic, which is my dream race.”
This weekend Van der Merwe will be racing in the SA XCO Championships at Thaba Trails in Johannesburg, which will be his first race with the team.
“I feel positive and confident to go out there and race for the first time with my new bike. My goal is to finish on the podium in my age category.”