Cherise Stander, wife of the late Burry Stander, will be aiming to draw inspiration from his achievements at the Cascades MTB Park when she contests the UCI Mountain Bike (MTB) Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June.
The Team RECM rider, a stage winner on the 2012 Route de France, has had a tough start to the year by her own admission, but has set her sights on the forthcoming global spectacle.
She has been hard at work, preparing for the tough 74km route that will take riders through the Cascades MTB Park and around the surrounding landscape of Pietermaritzburg.
‘I am training hard’
“It’s been a bit of a bumpy start to the year,” Stander said, “but at the moment I am training hard and focused on the event. I have been focusing on trying to get my strength up, so I have been doing a bit of work in the gym and also focusing on power intervals.”
With it being her first MTB Marathon World Championships, she admitted it would be a learning experience: “I really have absolutely no idea what to expect from this race and the main goal is to get through the race and finish,” she said.
The winter conditions in Pietermaritzburg are often cold and dry and Stander believes that she is more suited to the warmer conditions. However, with the South African Championships providing a dress rehearsal for the UCI event three weeks before it takes place, she has an opportunity to assess whether conditions will be favourable for her or not.
“KZN gets really cold in June and I am usually a bit better in the heat, but, having said that, racing in your home country is always an advantage. We will be racing the course at SA champs on 7 June, so I will have a better idea if the course suits me after that,” she explained.
Having supported her late husband Burry at the Cascades MTB Park on many occasions previously, she has some vivid memories of him competing at the venue and taking on the best in the world with distinction. Stander hopes to draw on some of those memories for inspiration.
“The Cascades MTB Park is a place that is very close to me and it definitely will be motivation,” she said.
“I have some amazing memories of Burry fighting his heart out there, so I will definitely be thinking of him and his never-say-die attitude when I’m tired.”
She added: “I am really looking forward to not having to travel so far. It is also great that all my family and friends will be able to watch the best in the world compete against each other.”
Stander’s preparation for the World Championships have included time off the bike to work on her strength. She is hoping it pays off when Pietermaritzburg plays host to the latest in a long line of major cycling events that have taken place in and around the KwaZulu-Natal capital.
“I’m getting there! It’s a bumpy road, but I’m making progress slowly but surely, and with the Hilton Classic the week before the World Champs, I will be prepared,” Stander concluded.