A bright future for young PMB cyclist

2013-08-15 00:00

NEXT week, Pietermaritzburg, the cycling capital of South Africa, will host some of the world’s top cyclists in the cycling union’s UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships at the Cascades MTB Park.

St John’s Diocesan School for Girls pupil Alexandra Mapstone felt she would have had a good chance of making the team, but due to her age of 16, she was not selected to take part as a junior.

Nonetheless, Alexandra tells The Witness she is excited to see her heroes riding in her hometown.

The teenager is one of the up-and-coming female cyclists in the youth category for riders under 17.

“I also can’t wait to see my team-mates,” she says.

Among her heroes, she counts the late Burry Stander, Natalie Bergstrom and Candice Neethling.

“I got the chance to meet Burry on a few occasions,” she says. “Once was at a prize giving after a race where he was the guest of honour. He told us he started the exact same way and said we should never stop believing in what we can do. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s a journey.”

She also took part in this year’s Burry Stander Sardine Classic, where she won the female youth category and is currently in the lead in the youth category of the Race Organisers Admin Group (ROAG) series, and ranked eighth overall.

Next year, as she’ll be older and eligible to compete as a junior, she hopes to participate in the World Series taking part at Cascades.

She feels that it is an advantage having a track like Cascades Park to train on and she thought it was “awesome” that the track was in her backyard.

“This is my training ground. It’s Pietermaritzburg — it’s where I live. It’s so awesome that the world championships are going to be here. It’s such a huge honour for KwaZulu-Natal,” Alexandra says.

Alexandra is looking to 2020, when she will be 23 and have more experience under her belt, as the year she makes a loud splash in the cycling world.

“I’ll be much stronger then. I’m thinking of taking a year off after school and just build my strength by competing overseas,” she says and adds that although she hadn’t really put much thought into where she wanted to study after school, the University of Pretoria was high up on her list.

Having only started riding competitively last year, it’s been a quick dash to the top to Alexandra, as she is already ranked in the top three in the country, among other female cross-country cyclists.

“Her father took her cycling on a farm in 2011 and she loved it. In February last year, she cycled at the Cross Country Championships in Cape Town. When she came back, she told us she hated it,” her mother, Debbie Mapstone, tells The Witness.

The World Championships in Pietermaritzburg will take place during school days, but fortunately her principal at St John’s has allowed her time off to go and watch the competition.

Debbie says Alexandra’s school has been very supportive and has allowed her to stop participating in school sports so she could focus on her cycling.

“She’s very determined … She has a race every weekend and we travel all over the country. We back her all her way, because riding’s a big part of her life.”

On September 2, after the World Championships, Alexandra and other young cycling girls will get the chance to meet and ride with Beijing Olympic gold medalist and London silver medalist Sabine Spitz from Germany. The meeting, organised by Alexandra’s coach Johann Wykerd, will see the girls go for a ride with the 41-year-old German, and will include tea and a brief talk.

Wykerd says about Alexandra: “She’s been racing for only a year-and-a-half, but I’ve never met anyone as tenacious and disciplined. I see quite a big future for her. If she can maintain what she is doing, then South Africa will get to know all about her in the future.”

The big goal now for Alexandra, says Wykerd, is to make the South African junior team for next year’s championships and, as she’s ranked in the top three in the country, he’s confident she will be in the side.

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