Despite having to overcome serious injuries in recent weeks, former Springbok rugby star Joel Stransky and teammate Andrew Mclean are determined to be competitive at the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race later this month.
The pair, who finished third last year, will pit themselves against arguably the toughest field in the history of the three-day event when it starts at the Zuurberg Mountain Village outside Port Elizabeth on May 26.
They will go head to head against the likes of TIB Insurance-Momsen’s defending champion Andrew Hill, who has partnered with up-and-coming pro Marco Joubert.
Also in the running will be BCX’s Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger, who won the three-stage Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter at a canter last month.
Ellsworth-ASG’s Pieter Seyffert, who triumphed two years ago, will also be back for another stab at the title alongside new teammate Travis Walker. They are in good form after winning the seven-day TransCape in February.
Imbuko Wines’ Chris Wolhuter and Craig Boyes, who won Winelands last year, should be the other in-form team.
After getting onto the podium last year, Stransky said their aim would be no different.
“Knowing Andrew, I’d imagine he’s going to want to do better than third,” he said.
The 1995 World Cup winner has worked his way back to racing condition after he was unable to finish the Cape Epic in March due to a fall that left him with extensive facial injuries, a punctured lung and broken ribs.
Mclean was also sidelined after a freak accident shortly before the Epic prevented him from starting the eight-day race. Stransky said they had similar mind-sets in that they both tended to push themselves to their absolute limits.
“Our dynamic works well because we’re very determined and we both want to win,” he said.
“We laugh at each other and call each other cockroaches because we both suffer properly to try to achieve the best we can.
“We’re both hugely competitive and we’ll be giving it our all.”
Stransky said that, despite their competitive natures, he felt confident Mclean would be mindful of his fitness level.
“We’re both coming out of injury and he knows my propensity for suffering, so we’ll have a go, but I know if he sees me suffering he’ll back off and look after me a bit.
“Riding with him is a real privilege because he’s an incredibly astute racer who really understands his partners.”
The former Bok said his road to recovery had been a smooth one and all that was left to do was to continue building on his condition ahead of the demanding PwC Great Zuurberg Trek.
“As much as I’m not in the condition I was before the Epic, I’m definitely not in bad shape and I’m training as hard as possible.”
For more information, go to www.greatzuurbergtrek.co.za