Under-23 South African Cross-Country National Champion, Julian Jessop, is trading off his early season endurance stage races for some high intensity prep-work as he builds up towards the second round of the 2017 SA National MTB Cup Series XCO, which takes place at Wolwespruit Bike Park in Tshwane on Saturday 15 April.
Jessop has put in some great training sessions over the December and January months and feels he has improved when comparing his interval sessions to this time last year. He feels however that the 2017 racing season has started slow. His first race of the year was at the Grabouw leg of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series. “I wasn't feeling myself during the race and I wasn't totally focused, which led to me taking a wrong turn 10 kilometres before the finish. I placed 13th overall,” he said.
Jessop then took part in the Tankwa Trek, a three-day stage race near the Ceres Valley. “I absolutely loved that stage race and I had so much fun racing with my partner, Tristan de Lange. We worked well together and placed sixth in a highly competitive field with some major international athletes racing,” he said.
Next, it was time for him to race the short circuit, pulse thumping national cross-country opener at Rhebokskloof in the Western Cape.
“After finishing the Tankwa Trek on such a high note two weeks prior to this event, I was really hoping for a great result. Unfortunately, I didn't get the best training sessions in between these events as I was still recovering from the Tankwa. I had a decent start at the national but lost contact with the lead group early on. I battled to get into a fast rhythm and maintain my speed around the track. Around mid-race I had a second kick and I managed to overtake a few guys in the latter half of the race. I ended up 14th overall and fifth South African. However, I knew that I was missing an extra one or two percent somewhere and I needed to find out where.”
Jessop is hoping to improve his results from the first round when he tackles the Wolwespruit track next weekend. “My training has been going well and I have been focusing on one of my weaknesses, which I hope will improve my speed,” he said. “I’d like to mix it up more at the front and I am looking forward to racing again.”
Event Organiser and Wolwespruit Bike Park’s Johan Fischer said that the track had been shortened by at least a kilometre in order to make the race more spectator friendly, but warned participants not to think it would mean an easier race come race day.
“There is still a lot of climbing and it remains a tough course,” said Fischer. “There is a completely new rock garden, and we’ve added a new gap jump to make the track a little more technical and challenging. We will also combine the feed zone with the technical zone, which we feel will provide a better support structure for the riders.
“The biggest improvements to the venue in comparison to last year’s event, is that the bike shop is now complete and fully operational. The Bike Park itself is developing well and getting closer to its full potential.”
Wolwespruit Bike Park also provides an outdoor bar area and coffee and refreshments. A bike wash facility will be available, and a pump track will keep the younger riders entertained throughout the day.
Entries for the second round of the 2017 SA National MTB Cup Series XCO are currently open, and close on Tuesday 11 April. To pre-enter, click here: https://cyclingsa-events.co.za/app/. For more information about the Series, visit: https://www.cyclingsa.com/2017-sa-mtb-cup-series/.