One of South African cycling’s brightest prospects, Frances Janse van Rensburg, had her extraordinary talent stifled somewhat when the coronavirus brought an abrupt end to a string of early-season successes.
The 19-year-old had a dream start to the year and was crowned national U23 road and time-trial champion in February before failing, by millimetres, to capture her first Cape Town Cycle Tour title behind multiple champion Cherise Willeit.
In-between, she won the individual time-trial title at the KwaZulu-Natal road champs and finished runner-up in the cross-country race at the first leg of the SA MTB Cup Series before dominating the Kamberg Classic mountain bike race.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it was all over.
“I’m grateful for how well my first year as an U23 rider started. Unfortunately, it all came to a very sudden stop due to Covid-19,” said Janse van Rensburg.
“My life changed quite a lot. I went from not staying in one place for more than 10 days to being back home in Vryheid with my family, feeling uncertain about when I will race again.”
She said it became a matter of living from day to day and just focusing on finding the good in every day.
“It was challenging. I really miss racing and the freedom of being able to do what I love.”
Physically she felt strong and continued her training indoors, however, emotionally it proved a much tougher assignment.
“There were lots of ups and downs. To only train indoors really started to take a toll on me after about three weeks in lockdown,” she said, admitting that she has been in a much better head space since receiving the green light to ride outdoors.
Janse van Rensburg, who races under the Head Bikes-Positive Sports Solutions banner on the road and Absolute Motion off it, has naturally had to adjust her racing calendar.
“I still have the same goals,” she said, listing Tour Durban (now a virtual event), 947 Ride Joburg, Tshwane Classic, Amashova Durban Classic and the Worlds in September as her goals on the road. “I’ll just have to wait a bit longer before I can try and achieve them.”
In terms of mountain biking, the SA XCO Champs, several KZN marathons, Wines2Whales and sani2c feature in her thinking.
“I would like to achieve podiums and hopefully win one of them, but I know it will be a tough task. The women’s field in South Africa is very strong.
Janse van Rensburg advised everyone to keep the faith.
“Never give up on your dreams and give your best in every situation, no matter how difficult it is. One day it will all pay off.”