As a seven-time national champion, six-times in downhill and once in enduro, Johann 'Pottie' Potgieter is a journeyman within the South African mountain bike scene.
Having begun riding professionally in 2011, the 35-year-old has travelled the world because of his skills on the bike. It has enabled him to race and test himself against the best, and has also become a vehicle that has introduced him to career paths he never thought he would pursue.
Ride24 had the opportunity to chat with Pottie before he left for Europe, to compete in Les Gets, France, at the 2022 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
The experienced downhiller has been speeding down tracks for roughly 22 years and has had the opportunity to experience both South African and international trails, mostly in Europe.
Fittingly, Pottie's first taste of international racing was in Les Gets in 2004, for the Junior South African selection.
"The very first time I got exposed to international racing was in 2004, when I got selected for the South African juniors to go to the World Champs in Les Gets, France [...] Since then, I was sort of racing overseas, taking unpaid leave, but still racing. But then from 2011, I started racing full-time," reflects Potgieter.
"[This World Championship in France] is quite a special one, because that's where I went for my first year as a junior. So now, I'm returning for the World Champs 18 years later."
With the pinnacle of mountain biking hosted in Europe, South Africans can find it challenging to make it up north, particularly on the financial front. Finding funding is often the difference between making it to Europe or missing out.
Racing for the rainbow nation has always been an enormous privilege for Potgieter. The excitement he had riding for his country at 17, is still with him at 35, as he looks to test himself against the world's best.
"The results overseas haven't been what I was looking for. There are a bunch of difficult factors [for riders like me]. We don't get a lot of time to do testing, to dial in the bike, and that's super important out there considering the movement you have to do on the bike and the high-speed tracks," says Potgieter.
"In saying that, I've had some good results locally. I won SA champs again this year, so I'm not feeling too bad. So, I'm hoping for a good race at the World Champs because it's a big honour to pull that South African jersey over your head."