Former under-23 South African Cross Country shining star, Mariske Strauss, is excited by the step up into the elite women’s category that 2014 brings when she tackles the Pietermaritzburg leg of the international UCI MTB World Cup Series at Cascades MTB Park from 11-13 April 2014.
Strauss is eager to take the first stride in the direction of her mountain bike World Cup top 20 goal. Having blossomed in her final year as an under-23 competitor in 2013, Strauss now has whole the country’s mountain biking fraternity’s eyes on her as she enters the big wide world of the elite women’s race category.
“Being in my first year as an elite rider, its back to being a small fish in a big pond!” described Strauss. “I’ll start right at the back of the field and I’ll really have to try find my bearings all over again.”
A career-defining 2013 saw Strauss, together with BMC-SA’s Candice Neethling, become a shining light in the world of women’s mountain biking in South Africa and she now hopes to take things forward in the women’s elite category locally as well.
“Recently the women’s elite category is probably the one area where we haven’t quite been as competitive as we would have liked to on an international level and hopefully I can try help take things up a level or two this year. Yolande Speedy was an amazing athlete in her day but unfortunately she didn’t have as many opportunities to race internationally as we do now.”
Last year, Strauss join the European-based Orange Monkey pro team, a move that the Western Cape based star is delighted to have made.
“It’s been such a blessing having such an awesome team who is always ready to walk a path with me. Unfortunately, even with an amazing South African team, you just don’t have the support structures that a European team can offer and so I’m really excited to try grow with Orange Monkey for the foreseeable future.”
Strauss has been rethinking certain goals and ambitions as well. “Working with Jeroen [Swart] means everything is all very scientific and structured, which really helps keep me going in the right direction and working towards my goals. I’m going to be racing the Absa Cape Epic this year with Hanlie Booyens so that will be a really good experience and I’m going in with a really open mind.”
According to Strauss the fact that the World Cup season opener takes place so close to home is a huge advantage and something she hopes will enable her to get her 2014 World Cup efforts of to a flying start.
“Pietermaritzburg also holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve raced there for the past twelve years, it is an amazing track that the organisers and designers just keep making better and better and I know the course like the back of my hand so I’m really looking forward to racing there again in April.”
The UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 11-13 April 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za
Photo: Mylene Paynter
Source: 2014 UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg press release