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G’Day Fellow Mountainbikers,

I’ve got a lot to say today so go make coffee before you settle in to read this!

Now that we are in the countdown to the 2008 Olympics, the speculation is beginning about who will be SA’s Mountainbike representatives. There are only a few names that have been popping up with any regularity in the discussions, and mine is not among them! So sad to be an old person who was only ever a wannabe.

In the Male Division discussion is rampant (perhaps a poor choice of word, perhaps not); one side of the camp says that Burry Stander is the only logical choice because he has had some experience overseas where the game is played at a completely different level. Many say that he is too young and it will do him a dis-service in his development as a rider.

On the other side of the camp, Fritz Pienaar and Richard Beswick are mentioned in the same breath, but it is admitted that Fritz has made it quite plain that his fast developing group of high quality Bike Shops is his first priority…despite fooling about riding the Cape Epic when he is, from a skill and physiology point of view, GIFTED for XC.

Rumour has it that Richard (King of Bling) Beswick is focussing on XC racing this year and intends to put in a showing at the UCI World Championships as well as other European and US races. Only time will tell if this is mere speculation. One thing is certain, win or lose, Richard would do us proud by doing it with style!

No discussion has failed to mention J.P.Pearton, but it is universally acknowledged that he is more focussed on his studies and future employment career than racing just now, but should he become focussed on racing, the battle between JP and Rich would be fun to watch.

Among Female contenders, the discussion seems to take the either/or format, with the only two names being mentioned being Yolande Speedy and Anke Erlank. I think they are both very fast. I also think that it’s a shame that there are only two names to speculate about. I’ve always liked fast women.

It has also been taken as a mute point that we can really only send one male and one female rather than a team…and the real negative merchants of doom and gloom say that we wont send anyone at all!

The only thing that everyone can agree on is that we are VERY proud to have Mountainbiking as an Olympic Sport.

The thing that needs to mentioned here is that it is ONLY XC Racing (short fast technical) of all the MTB disciplines that has been recognised as an Olympic Sport. There is no Olympic Observed Trials, or Olympic Downhill, or Olympic Marathon, or Olympic Multi Day Stage Race, or Olympic Point to Point.

The implication is plain, that in the wider stage of the World Arena it is still XC that is considered Mountainbike Racing and everything else is “interesting but only in a special interest sort of way”.

I therefore find it somewhat puzzling when I look at the historically abysmal attendance at XC events on a Club, Provincial and National level in South Africa. It is XC racing that has made this sport so popular the world over and has elevated it to Olympic status.

The only parallel that I can draw is to our much loved process of learning to ride using a clipless pedal system.

There you are having this wonderful time riding along on your newly discovered most favourite thing (your bike) and then you listen to a whole bunch of maniacs who say “try riding with proper cycling shoes and cleats, it will make you go so much faster and improve your fun and safety factor sooo much!”

Now with the benefit of hindsight, we all know this is true, but can you imagine how it must look from the sidelines.

Here was this dude (or Dudette) who was an ok rider and then starts crashing their brains out on jeep track (let alone single track) because they are trying to grow a new skill that is at the very core of our sport, yet from the sidelines there is no perception of improvement in enjoyment. It doesn’t look like fun at all.

I can only think that it must be the same with XC racing in SA. Perhaps guys are watching from the sidelines and thinking that when they get skilled enough they will think about participating, or when they get fit enough, or when aliens beam down some sort of special knowledge of how to do it whilst they are sleeping.

I’d love to tell everyone who is not using a clipless pedal system that the reason that we all use them is not to trick them into using them too, but because it is better and without it you will find it very difficult to go beyond riding around the neighbourhood footpaths.

I’d also love to tell everyone who is not participating in XC racing that it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on and it is the sole reason why our sport has grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and become a legitimate Olympic Sport. The reason that every country in the world (except SA) puts forward an XC Team is not to trick you into doing it too but because it is so much bloody good fun. Even the Japanese love it!

The first of the Provincial XC races are on Sunday the 21st at Phambili. This is good fun. Call Simon Nash (082 414 8604) today and find out how to enter and where to go for the racing. If you already ride at Logwood Bike Haven then there is NOTHING that XC racing can throw at you that you can’t handle.

When you are watching the Olympic Mountainbike Event on TV you will truly be able to say THAT’S MY SPORT without stretching the truth if you have given XC a go.

Till next time, come join in the fun and games at Phambili and keep the rubber side down.

Geoff the Aussie