Current Downhill Champion, Stefan Garlicki is returning home from Europe to race on one of his favourite tracks and defend his 2015 title at the 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships, which take place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 16-17 July.
“I’m looking forward to next weekend, and I’m really looking forward to coming home,” he said. Garlicki has been racing and training in Europe for the first half of the year and eagerly anticipates getting back onto South African soil.
The Solid-Reverse Factory Racing rider (sponsored by Investec) is excited ahead of the National Champs. “It’s always a cool event and it’s nice to meet up with everyone, especially after being away for a while,” he said.
Garlicki mentioned that there will be a slight difference ahead of the race, being the reigning champion coming in, but doesn’t feel anymore pressure than usual. “I’m just going to go and do the best that I can and hopefully that puts me out on top. I feel great on the bike at the moment and I’ve had a couple of good results recently in Europe so I’m feeling confident heading in. But I’m sure the locals will be training hard on the track at home and will definitely be putting up a good fight,” he added.
The 25-year-old Capetonian chatted about the pros and cons of training in Europe: “I guess it can be a struggle at times because you are away from home for long periods of time. Financially, it can also get quite tough as well.”
Speaking from Lenzerheide (SUI) where he will be competing in the UCI World Cup on Saturday, Garlicki said: “Obviously the competition here is way stronger than home and the tracks and the level of racing over here is really high, so it definitely elevates the riding and gives you a bit of extra confidence, especially when you start having better results over here.
“There are bike parks all over the place, and really long rough tracks. It does help you, but at the same time, the tracks are so different that it’s almost like a different style of riding and your bike set up is totally different. You could be fast on South African tracks but won’t necessarily be fast on European tracks. You can also be fast on European tracks and not necessarily be fast on South African tracks due to the different setups and different approach to the race.
“Tracks at home are really short and not that rough, so it’s a high-intensity sort of burst. Generally they’re a little bit slower and tighter. They’re still pretty technical, but just in a different way. Whereas the tracks over here are a lot faster, wide open, longer, rougher, so the fitness side comes into it more. It’s almost a completely different style of racing, but for sure it helps being over here and doing the races here as it definitely increases experience. I feel now after doing it for a few years I know how to set my bike up and things like that for South African and European tracks.”
Garlicki said that he “loves” the Cascades track. “I loved the World Cup track. It was one of, if not my favourite track that I’ve ridden around the world. Mainly because of the high speed section in the middle with the huge table tops,” he added.
Coming from a Motorcross background, Garlicki feels a sense of nostalgia on the track, as the section he spoke of took him back to the days of racing.
“I also like the fact that there’s a great shopping centre and infrastructure right at the venue – you have Coffeberry Café right at the finish line, which is always a treat when I get to Pietermaritzburg. I actually go there more to visit the café and not the race, just kidding,” he laughed.
Garlicki also said that the Cascades track has become increasingly renowned since hosting World Cups and a World Championship. “There’s a huge riding scene in KwaZulu-Natal. I have got quite a few friends from around there as well. I think all the elements come together in a good way. I’d say it’s always the favourite venue to race at,” he concluded.
The 2016 SA National XCO and DHI Championships take place at Cascades MTB Park on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July respectively. Entries are open and close at midnight on Tuesday 12 July. To enter, click here: https://entries.cyclingsa.com/events/7761-sa-xcodhi-champs.
To view the STIHL 2016 SA MTB Championships – Programme of events, click here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/s/20160707_SA-MTB-Champs-2016-Program-1.pdf. Riders please note - please check the start times as they have changed.
For more information, click here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-champs/