Despite all the uncertainty and restrictions imposed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, top mountain biker 21-year-old Henry Liebenberg has made a conscious decision to remain positive.
The U23 SA MTB XCO national champion says with recent Covid-19 developments affecting the sport so radically it could be a while before riders like him see a start line again.
“The decision has been made to suspend national and international racing entirely until there is a clear sign of containment of the virus.
“We as athletes live for the start line, but I respect the decision that has been made by Cycling SA and the UCI. With this, a lot of time has been made available to us, time to reset and time to enjoy the small things in life.”
Liebenberg, who won the KZN XCO Championships last year, is currently on the family farm, which is quite remote and far from civilisation.
“It will be interesting to see how the government reacts to the situation from here. My plan is to wait it out and see where we go from there.
“The first priority is to stay healthy and not take any unnecessary risks. This pandemic could be a big blow to the sport world-wide. Everything is on hold, so we as athletes are uncertain how the rest of the year will look and how we should prepare.
“As soon as we have clarity on the situation my coach and I will formulate a plan on how to prepare for the future from here.”
He added that his goal was still to be the best possible athlete he could be.
“Seasonal goals definitely look different. If there is no racing then obviously the goals are in question.
“My goal is still the same – to better myself as an athlete. And when we know when the season will continue we will plan my races and priorities accordingly.
“The only positives I can see at the moment is that we have been given some down time; time to be with family and friends.”
Throughout his years on the bike, Liebenberg said the sport had taught him quite a few things.
“One of them is that the body can always do way more than what you think.
“Cycling has taught me to be grateful for my talents and has given me freedom. When I’m on my bike nothing else matters.”
Every day was still a learning curve and he never stopped learning new things.
“My perspective on what it means to be an athlete has changed a lot: to be better than the day before, observe what works for me personally in a workout and adapt to training off the bike to become stronger and faster.
“It fascinates me to see how my coach and I have adapted to training over the years and how we’ve become smarter in our training. This to me is the fascinating part of being a professional athlete.
“The path you walk to become the best you can possibly be to me is very exciting.”
He added that the best part of being a pro was the journey you took to become better, faster and more efficient.
“Training day in and day out to be the best athlete you can be fascinates me. I’m absolutely in love with this process.
“My advice to any youngster would be to just ride your bike. Have fun and enjoy every second on it.
“If you decide to acquire a coach and start training more seriously make sure you never lose the element of fun,” said Liebenberg, whose ultimate goal is to represent SA at the Olympics.