Tristan Nortje claimed victory in the elite men’s race in the second event of the Western Cape MTB XCO Series, which took place at Rhebokskloof in Paarl at the weekend.
“It felt really good after some hard training and building up to the season,” said the 18-year-old, who beat Johan van Zyl into second. Matthew Keyser completed the podium.
“The goal is always to do well and, if everything goes to plan, to win.
“It was nice having the team there after Epic was cancelled and they also raced as most of the races are called off now or most likely going to be cancelled,” said the Imbuko Giant rider. He was referring to measures taken to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
Regarding the cross-country race, he said it was flat-out from the start.
“We made the pace hard from the beginning and then Nicol [Carstens] made it hard up the one climb and we distanced a few riders and I just kept the pace hard from there.”
Nortje, who recently won the Young Bulls competition at the Knysna Bull, added that the route suited him very well.
“There was actually climbing and not just short punchy climbs, so the course suited me. I also like steep climbs and climbs that are a bit longer.”
He said a challenge of XCO racing was to get the right balance between having strength and the speed to be fast enough.
“Also to not go flat out and blow with two laps to go; so to keep it constant and save a bit if you can.
“I like it because it’s really tough and you must dig deep for an hour and half or more. I love it, but sometimes it is really hard.”
Going forward, he plans to do some stage races, marathons and XCO events.
“I’m going to try to do every discipline, as much as possible, like marathon, XCO and stage racing.
“Skills help you wherever you ride. If it’s on the road or wherever, you always need skill and the more you have the faster you are, I would say.”