Racing 2009 - Neil Frazer

Good Morning Mountain Bike Racers and others,


Two thousand and nine is going to be a very interesting year for mountain biking in South Africa. I had a feeling that it was going to be a big year, and this weekend proved me correct.


In a market were mtb’s are outselling road bikes by about 20 to one there had to be a steep change on its way. Barberton, usually a sleepy little hamlet in the middle of Mpumalanga was the host and catalyst for big changes in the mtb landscape…and it is very exciting.


The race itself was very slickly organized from electronic registration, to a brilliant well marked course and flawless organisation and attention to detail. Fritz Pienaar and MTN have set the standard very high and I hope all the others organizers take careful note because I liked what I saw at Barberton and I expect nothing less if you charge me top dollar to do your race.


I have ridden almost every Barberton race since its inception and it has come of age as a proper classic with proper racing. I had to work hard for my result and that is exactly how it should be for a “classic”. Congratulations to Fritz, MTN and everyone else.


The field was enormous – the biggest ever apparently.


The standard was high and the minute the gun went off I realized that very few people had arrived at Barberton fat and full of excuses like they did in the past.


A climb of highest order split the field. Margins between riders were small and a tiny mistake cost valuable time and places with us, the Journeyman Riders with day jobs, and bosses who frown at arriving late and falling asleep in meetings. But well ridden guys.


At the top end of the mtb food chain things have become decidedly less cordial and a lot more acid.


But that is a very good thing!


Along with a much needed and appreciated injection of cash (big cash), results, status have become important and egos apparent.


I am reading the Chris Hoy biography at the moment and one of the aspects of the book is that cycle racing is not racing unless it is close contact. Man against Man (as opposed to man against clock or at a distance).


There needs to fire and venom; and results must count high and losses must hurt badly.


This is now  true of rider and sponsor. A big cheque should not automatically guarantee great results.


The money has arrived; and from Burry (top to toe in Specialized kit and dripping  bling) to the DCM newbies or Garmin stalwarts or MTN pros (and some very competitive Cyclelab riders) the stakes are high and demands on riders to produce brilliant results constantly much higher and more difficult to achieve.


Now wins are celebrated, and losses are no longer nonchalantly shrugged off. ROI is a term sponsored riders understand.


I am not surprised there was a racing incident this weekend. Good! Tthe pros must feel the pressure and must deliver to themselves, their sponsors and the public. They must raise their games here and abroad.


For too long the menu has been BLAND. We need races to be hard suffer-fests with the stakes high and pressure enormous. Expect multiple excuses, team changes, snot and trane, awesome performances and a lot less “we are all nice guys racing”.


I want to look forward to the upcoming races… and to follow the intrigue and results with interest.


Fight hard but fight fair. Win and lose with style and grace.


That was a very good start to the year even if the 120km race with 4000m of climbing caught some of us by surprise.


Neil Frazer

Cycle Lab SuperCycling Club – Toyota Race Snakes