Smith brothers are to mountain biking what Williams sisters are to tennis

2009-10-28 00:00

TENNIS has the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, rugby has the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, and mountain biking has the Smiths, Pete and Mike, who are local residents.

Dubbed “The Brothers Smith”, Pete (23) and Mike (22) are amateur bikers, who have made a name on the local circuit. Pete cycles for Team Jeep, while Mike is with Team Subaru. They live in Hilton with their parents. Both are students at UKZN. Pete is doing postgraduate studies in law and Mike is doing honours in economics.

Pete and his partner, Nick Floros, won the recent Imana Wild Ride on the Wild Coast by one minute and 33 seconds from Mike and his partner. The order was reversed at the non-stop Sani2C, which Mike and partner Craig Stone won just 34 seconds ahead of Pete and Floros.

The brothers first became involved in the sport while they were pupils at Cowan House Prep School. “A friend of ours was a mountain biker, so we thought we’d try it,” said Mike. “Pete did well in his first race and loved it, but I hated it and only got back into the sport after years of being on the sideline.” They continued with it through school at Howick High.

The attraction of the sport for them, they said, was the personal challenge of an individual sport. “Although we ride in pairs or teams of three for some events, there is no team strategy as there is in road racing. Single-track racing, which is a unique aspect of mountain biking, is particularly challenging as it’s both physically demanding and technically complex when the route goes through difficult terrain.

“We also get to go through some beautiful places. Mountain biking has taken us as a family all over the country to places we would never have seen otherwise, including some stunning scenery.”

Although the competition between them can be fierce, they remain best of friends. They recounted how, in the Sani2C, Mike was battling, so Pete gave him a hand. Mike returned the favour in the Imana Wild Ride when they agreed to play by “gentleman’s rules”. “There was a ferry crossing before the final stretch and we agreed that whoever got there first would wait for the other. Much to his partner’s surprise, Mike waited for me, but they still beat us. It was a hectic part sprint, part walk along the beach with the waves coming in,” said Pete.

The brothers are full of praise for their sponsors and parents: “Sponsorship is a big help as it’s an expensive sport in terms of the equipment. We could not have participated without our parents’ commitment and support. Almost every weekend for years they were out there with us, driving us to events and backing us up. My Dad was our team’s driver for the non-stop Sani2C, while my Mum was Pete’s. That was nine hours and 18 minutes of cycling and they were there with us all the way,” said Mike.

As to the future, the Brothers Smith said they did not plan to turn professional: “Mountain biking only comes second. Our studies are the first priority in our lives and after that our careers. We look forward to competing for years to come. I’d like to believe that we’ve shown you can do so while being fully committed to other, possibly more important, aspects of life.

“Mountain biking helps us keep a balance between work and play as it’s a lifestyle sport. Being amateurs, there isn’t the same pressure as there is on professionals like the Williams sisters. That’s what makes us different from athletes like them, and the fact that we don’t swear at the line judges,” smiled Pete.

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