A week after completing the Absa Cape Epic, Mariske Strauss is back on the bike for her first XCO National this year. She will be competing in the second round of the Stihl 2015 SA XCO Cup Series at Voortrekker Monument in Gauteng on Saturday 28 March.
The OMX Pro Team rider and lover of life, chats about Epic, her road to recovery, and her excitement for this weekend’s National Cup race.
When asked about the Absa Cape Epic, Strauss could not reiterate enough how much fun she had with her partner, Cherie Vale:
“It was so, so, so much fun. I had an absolute blast with Cherie. In the end that’s really all that it’s about.”
She found it fascinating that a race such as ’Epic could teach her how much her body could actually do. “There cannot be another name that is more fitting than that of the Epic, because that is exactly what it is,” she said.
She also stressed the importance of not getting too serious at such a young age: “Yes it is important to have a good mind-set, however, especially for the younger riders, there are so many years ahead of you – there’s no point in absolutely killing yourself now. It’s good for young riders to have a more conservative approach to races such as Epic, in order to gain race knowledge and experience without straining their young bodies too much.”
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, Strauss suffered a serious injury to her abdominal muscles, and has since then been taking it very easy, yet working very hard on the road to recovery.
“When muscles get hurt, they switch off, and the others have to compensate, which then puts those muscles under strain.” Her decision to take time out to recover was one of the best she has made so far. She has accepted and embraced her situation, describing the process as a “very interesting time”.
“Being at physio and chiro sessions three to four times a week, it’s almost like a full time job just to get me back into one piece again,” she laughs as she talks about the positive side of her setback.
“I’m just so lucky I have such an amazing support group behind me getting me through it all. Clinton from Sports Science, my coach Jeroen Swart, my physiotherapist, my chiropractor, my sponsors, and my family and friends. It all really just makes such a difference,” she said.
It has been as much of a psychological battle for her as has a physical one. “I am, in a way, thankful for this experience. I could write a book that people would actually want to read now, as opposed to a book that would say: ‘I raced, I won, the end’. If I am able to help at least one other person down the line who has a setback like this, then I feel that this whole experience was worth it,” she said.
“There has been such incredible support and such wonderful people wanting me to take the time I need to recover, I don’t feel any pressure from anybody to have to compete when I’m not ready, so the stress from that side of things is off, which also helps a lot.”
When chatting about this coming weekend’s XCO Cup event in Gauteng on Saturday, Strauss, with no puns intended, described herself as seemingly “well-oiled” for the race.
“I am nervous as my injury starts reminding me it’s there during high intensity work, like XCO. It seems to have kept it together, even after Epic. Everything seems to be going smoothly so far and I’m not fighting myself. We will just have to wait and see. This is my first time racing a national since the Commonwealth injury - I cannot wait to be back on my bike,” she said.
She also has a new bike, which she has named Beasty. “It will be mine and Beasty’s first National, and first time on the Voortrekker track. I am beyond excited, I always love a new challenge, and there are always new tricks and turns up the sleeves of the course designers, so I can’t wait to see what the track has in store for us.”
Entries for the Stihl 2015 SA XCO Cup Series #2 close at midnight tonight, 24 March. To enter, click here: http://csams.cyclingsa.com/enter-an-event/mtb/2015---mtb---sa-cup-series-2-xco.aspx. Late entries will be accepted at registration, with a nominal charge of R50 added to the entrance fee.
For more information on the 2015 Stihl SA MTB Cup Series, click here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2015-sa-mtb-cup-series.