Dutch world champ Valks arrives

2012-08-15 00:00

THERE’S a world champion in Pietermaritzburg, quietly going about her business in preparation for the UCI World Cycling Tour final next week.

Dutch cyclist Marti Valks (59) is here to defend the women’s 55-59 year age group time trial she won at last year’s event in Austria. While she no doubt concentrates on what happens on the road and what’s needed to remain at the top of her game, she is delighted at being given the opportunity to visit South Africa.

“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to South Africa. I was so excited when I heard the 2012 finals would be here as it gave me the chance to fulfill my dream while combining it with the UCI World Cycling Tour,” she said.

Valks arrived at the end of July, allowing herself time to acclimatize and train in conditions similar to race day. Hosted by Cathy Doherty-Bigara from 4Ever Cycles, Valks has enjoyed regular training rides on the route, respecting the rolling hills of the midlands. Said Valks, “Coming from Holland, which everyone knows is very flat, the hills have been a challenge. I like the hills though, but race day will not be easy.”

Taking on the time trial in Wartburg and the road race starting and finishing at Alexandra Park, Valks has given clear intentions that she is not here to simply enjoy a holiday. “I want to try and win the UCI rainbow jersey again and get a podium finish. I will give it all I have, that is certain,” she said.

Arriving early and getting used to the terrain, Valks has had to make minor adjustments for race day. “I was going to race with a closed back wheel but have changed my mind. I have decided to change my handlebars too,” said the champion who got into the sport relatively late in life at age 45.

“I turned out better than I thought and training was good. I latched onto Dutch rider and coach Adrie von Diemen and the results started to happen,” she said.

It hasn’t all been pedal power for the champion since her arrival. Realising her lifetime ambition, a visit to KwaZulu-Natal wouldn’t be complete without a stop at a game reserve and Valks has endeavoured to slot that into her schedule. Planning her trip, like she no doubt plans her races, she saved a visit to Hluhluwe Game Reserve a week before the races to enable her to charge her batteries and focus on the challenge ahead.

The UCI World Cycling Tour Final is in Pietermaritzburg and surrounds from August 20 to August 26.

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