Sauser set to defend

2014-06-25 00:00

DEFENDING world champion Christoph Sauser is extremely excited to be racing in a country he describes as “home away from home”, but he does not rate local riders’ chances for a podium finish very high.

Sauser jetted into South Africa earlier this week for the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships, which takes place in Pietermaritzburg this weekend. The Specialised Racing ace snatched victory from hometown hero Alban Lakata (Topeak-Ergon Racing Team) in 2013’s showdown in Austria and is now bubbling with excitement ahead of racing getting under way in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

“Every single World Championship is very special, but coming to South Africa for Worlds this year is definitely on a whole new level of specialness,” said the 38-year-old triple MTB Marathon world champ. He said he spends a third of his year mostly in Stellenbosch, and said, “every time I arrive I have that feeling of coming home. I just love the whole South African lifestyle.”

His sole aim is for this year’s World Champs is to defend his global crown.

The event will however also carry far greater meaning for Sauser, who has countless deeper connections to the host nation than just his illustrious racing history on South African soil.

“There will be many of my South African friends and fans cheering me on, which is huge motivation for me, and I hope I can give something back to them during the four hours of racing as well as to Burry [Stander], who unfortunately misses this one,” said Sauser of the late South African cycling legend who was a former team-mate and good friend of Sauser’s before he was killed on January 3, 2013.

“I would not have liked to compete against him during the four hours on his home soil,” Sauser added.

As if the Rainbow Nation offering Sauser homeground-like advantage and the memory of Stander driving him on weren’t enough of a head start, the Specialised Racing rider has a further local motivating factor. “I have some very good friends in South Africa, the weather is great, the people are friendly, there are so many perfect trails plus my charity — songo.info — is in South Africa.”

Despite his numerous South African ties and love for the country, Sauser was hesitant to rate the chances of a local rider finishing on the podium in Pietermaritzburg, citing the South African riders’ lack of regular global exposure being the key hindrance.

“Unfortunately I doubt there will be any South African riders who can keep up with the pace of the Europeans,” said Sauser. “The South Africans have to race in Europe all summer long if they are to lift their game. It is very difficult to develop any other way.”

“One of the major problems SA riders have is their sponsors are based in SA and these sponsors want their riders to have a presence within their home country.

“It is important to get out of the comfort zone and go and race against the best regularly which is impossible to do in South Africa. Burry was a good example, he went to America at a very young age already and that really helped in his development,” explained the globally renowned marathon star.

The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za

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