In a year which has not gone according to plan, promising young mountain biker Keagan Bontekoning was able to make his presence felt at the top tier of the sport.
As with his peers, the 20-year-old from Johannesburg had to resort to ingenuity to maintain his physical condition during lockdown.
“Staying motivated and positive throughout this year was not a challenge for me. Whether we are racing or not, I love working on my performance and bettering myself,” said the young Insect Science rider.
“I found lockdown was a great opportunity to work on things you normally wouldn’t be able to during a racing season. And I also learnt that any work that you put in will always benefit you in the future, so no amount of work is a waste.”
Bontekoning, who captured a stage and third overall at Sabie Xperience over the weekend, felt it was essential to surround oneself with people who believed in you and your dreams.
“Being part of this outfit has been incredible,” said Bontekoning, who had been signed earlier this year.
“Even though we did not get to do everything we had planned due to the pandemic, it was great to know I still had the team supporting me, as well as keeping me motivated throughout lockdown.
“The family aspect of the team helped me fit in right away and created a great relationship with everyone involved with the squad.
“It is also awesome that our team owner, Gerhard Booysen, is so passionate. He doesn’t put any pressure on us and I feel this is a key aspect to help achieve success.”
Bontekoning acknowledged, though, that 2020 had been difficult because of the uncertainty concerning the staging of races.
“Things would change so quickly and once racing started it was difficult to find that form again.
“But after a lot of hard work and bad luck with technical problems, I finally managed to win a stage at the Sabie Xperience and having the team place first, second and third was awesome.
“We have taken part in all of the big races that did happen this year and I found great form in the Trailseeker Series, constantly being in the front group battling for the win.
“I then turned my focus to the SA XCO championships, where I had a good race but struggled with cramping.” He eventually finished fourth in the U23 race, a mere 49 seconds off the podium.
Bontekoning said he would try to gain more experience by competing overseas in 2021.
“I will be looking for a good result at the SA marathon championships before heading to the Cape Epic where I will try to fight for the African Jersey,” he said.
“After that I will focus on cross-country racing and compete overseas to get some exposure against the best in the world and to learn from experienced riders and coaches.”
In the latter part of the season, he will give the SA MTB National XCO Championships another shot before looking to boost his CV with good results in the big marathon races.