African Continental MTB Championships, 2 April
Afriski Resort, Lesotho
James: 2nd place
When you commit to racing above 3000m there’s only one certainty – you’re going to hurt! The African Continental Championships, held in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho was an important selection race for both South Africa’s UCI XCO World Championship team to travel to the Czech Republic in July as well as the Olympics in August.
Going into African Conti Champs as the reigning champion and with a win from the previous weekend’s SA XCO Cup race at Wolwespruit, outside Pretoria, James Reid felt he had the form to make a decisive play for one of the national spots available. Unfortunately, the altitude and terrain had other ideas…
“African Continental Champs was a big disappointment for me after winning in Wolwespruit. I felt I had good shape going into it. But I miscalculated the effect the altitude would have on me, and went for a big training session mid-week, which didn’t pay off in the race.”
James started off well and felt strong enough to lead the race for the first four laps. He maintained a 15 to 30-second lead over Philip Buys for the majority of the event. Then James crashed and struggled to regain his rhythm: “Phil managed to work his way up on the fifth lap and I took a small tumble on one of the corners. He then pushed the pace. I caught back up to him but I had spent a little bit too much earlier on. He got a 20-second lead and reversed the roles when it counted. I respect him, he rode incredibly well and was very strong. In a title race no one remembers the ifs and buts.”
James remains positive his season and Olympic goals are on track: “The selection races are heating up. We have two more to go and I’m feeling confident. But, at the same time, I need to digest what happened at AfriSki and work on my weaknesses.”
“Hats off to the organisers. To everyone at AfriSki and Lesotho Cycling for everything that they did – I look forward to going back in the future,” James said.