Not many riders can boast three National MTB Championship titles before they reach the age of 23 but Team RECM’s James Reid could be privileged enough if he wins the 2015 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Van Gaalen, which doubles up as the South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships powered by Stihl on 6 June in the North West province.
Even though the lure of a hat-trick of titles is on the line, Reid has just come off a block of two UCI World Cup events in Czech Republic and Germany respectively and so the youngster is not taking himself too seriously as he returns to South Africa to get in some last minute preparation for the marathon event.
"There is definitely no added pressure on me for the SA Champs and I think that that has been part of the reason for my success over the past few years,” the Cape Town resident mentioned. “I don't place marathon racing at the top of my priority list but racing for a national title is always important and it is one of the big three titles that you always want to win.
"SA Cross Country Champs, SA Marathon Champs and African Continental Champs are the big three and I have one already so to add another one would be great but I won't put any extra pressure on myself,” he added calmly.
With a week to prepare for the endurance version of mountain biking, Reid does not feel that he is at a disadvantage against the riders that have had time to hone their marathon skills. In fact, he feels that he is at a slight advantage due to the refinement of his cross country skills over the past two weeks.
"My preparation for the last two years has been exactly the same so the short turn around isn't a problem and I don’t think it will be a disadvantage for me considering I have done it before.
"If anything you sharpen up your shape and harness your explosive power at these World Cups and, with the top quality field that I have been up against over the past two weeks, I think that it might actually be an advantage.
"I normally do a couple of long rides in the build up to get the conditioning up for riding for a few hours but I think that all of the power is there it is just about applying it at the right time,” he added cautiously.
Reid will enter the race with a strong RECM team at his side with the likes of stage race team mates Nico Bell and Erik Kleinhans. The three of them will have to work hard in order to shut down the opposition but Reid appreciates the team dynamic involved in marathon as opposed to cross country racing. "Being part of the RECM set-up, I am sure that we will have a plan going into the race.
"Both Erik and Nico have the shape and having strength in numbers will definitely help, especially in the latter stages of the race when it gets quite tactical.
“I am looking forward to racing with the guys again because cross country isn’t really a team sport but in the marathon and especially the second half of the race when guys start to get tired, being amongst a team will be an advantage,” the defending champion said.
Despite going into the race in a relaxed frame of mind, Reid still harbours hopes of defending his national title in 2015.
Should the race not go his way on the day though, a victory for the RECM setup is something Reid believes is a very real possibility.
"If anyone of us can win it then it is a team victory and we will keep the jersey within the team and that would still be really pleasing,” he concluded profoundly.
Online pre-entries for the 2015 SA MTB Marathon Champs powered by Stihl – which doubles up as the fourth round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Van Gaalen – are now closed, but entries will be accepted on the day, with an additional nominal fee of R50. This event is not limited to the championship contenders and is open to the public.
For more information, including the programme of events, visit http://www.cyclingsa.com/2015-sa-mtb-marathon-champs and http://www.nationalmtbseries.com/theseries/races/vangaalen.