MULTIPLE champion Anriette Schoeman will make her first foray into serious mountain biking at the world’s largest fully serviced stage race, the 251km Nedbank sani2c, in KwaZulu-Natal from Thursday.
The seven-time Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Tour winner and eight-time national road champion will take on the three-day race from Underberg, in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, to Scottburgh on the coast, alongside another converted dirt roadie, Gary Marescia.
Riding in the colours of Aca Joe, for whom she is a brand ambassador, Port Elizabeth’s Schoeman said: “I’ve seriously been wanting to do sani2c since I got my mountain bike at the end of last year. There are lots of stage races but I’ve always wanted to do sani2c because it’s such an awesome event.
“Every seasoned mountain biker raves about it, so I thought I’d put it on my bucket list. I can’t wait to experience it.”
Asked whether she would be aiming for a podium finish, the five-time 94.7 Cycle Challenge winner said she would be using the event to sharpen her off-road skills.
“I think because this is my first mountain bike stage race, I will just aim to learn from Gary and enjoy it. But my competitive nature might kick in at some point and it could turn into a race!”
Schoeman, who has represented South Africa at both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, said she enjoyed the thrill of mountain biking but had much to learn.
“I kind of enjoy crazy descents but my ‘let’s go down this hill as fast as possible and see what happens’ attitude doesn’t really count as a skill.”
She found the discipline a very different challenge to road racing, which involves bunch-oriented riding.
“In mountain biking there is absolutely no place to hide. You have to be physically strong and never get to rest or hide in the peloton.
“I quite enjoy pushing myself, but I must admit mountain biking requires a lot of mental toughness and patience.”
Unlike other roadies who have successfully made the transition, she said her participation did not represent a career segue into off-road racing.
“I don’t think I will ever fully convert to mountain biking. But I must admit it’s a lot of fun and the change of scenery is like a breath of fresh air,” the 35-year-old said.
Schoeman will join 4500 other riders in the event.