Racer Blog: The latest from SA U23 XCO Champ, Tiffany Keep

source : JULY 31, 2019BY BIKE NETWORK

““I’m currently sitting at home watching the Tour De France, the very race in which Darryl Impey took an incredible stage victory this year. Not to mention, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio’s fifth place at La Course too! July has been a big month for sport, particularly cycling.”

Along with the road racing, it’s been great to see the Saffa’s representing on the Mountain Bike World Cup circuit – with the likes of Candice Lill, Mariske Strauss, Cherie Redecker and Alan Hatherly, as well as downhillers Johann Potgieter, Greg Minnaar and Theo Erlangsen. Jean Spies has also been doing his fair share of racing on the track – to name but a few of the South Africans flying the flag high overseas. This surely bodes well for the future of our sport! 

After a successful team camp in Knysna, the very next weekend brought about my first “tour” of the year – USSA 2019, basically the National Champs for South African universities, which takes place annually. This year, it was based in Stellenbosch – a beautiful student town, which is typically quiet this time of year during university and school holidays. As much as I love the Cape, I can confidently say that I do prefer Winter in KZN. Athletes competing in USSA this year were exposed to some pretty interesting weather – mostly rain, wind, low temperatures and just a splash or two of sunshine thrown in for fun. The tour consisted of seven stages in four days; a long 100km stage, a short 65km stage, hill climb, time trial, criterium and a Cross Country style mountain bike stage to end it off. I really enjoyed being able to represent my university, Varsity College, at this event. Being a student and a cyclist isn’t always easy, but it does keep life interesting and is definitely worthwhile for being able to compete in events like this! 

I got to meet up with many old friends, and make new ones too! Winning the overall GC and both the QOM and Sprinters classification was the cherry on top of the cake. The positive environment at this event definitely helped to urge people to give of their best throughout all four days, and it was really inspiring to see that despite the busy lives that they live, many students still find the time to turn the pedals on a bicycle when they don’t have their nose in a textbook!

I returned home to warmer weather and after a few days off the bike, got stuck back into training ahead of the next big target – National Cross Country Championships at Thaba Trails, Gauteng. After just under two weeks of spinning in the sunshine we headed up north, to meet up with the rest of the team in Johannesburg, two days before race day. The track was as loose, dusty and rocky as ever; lots of fun to ride, quite painful to race, complete with steep, punchy climbs and technical descents. Thaba always puts on a real show for us riders! 

Race day arrived, I was excited to give it my best shot. Being National Champs, the U23 Ladies had a separate start to the Elites, with a two minute margin, which was quite a change from the standard scenario of having some of the world’s best Elite riders lining up alongside me. The gun went off and the race was on – typical Cross Country, fullgas from the word go. I managed to pace myself well, while still pushing hard, staying smooth on the bike and giving my best effort. Thankfully it paid off, and after a short trip to the doping control tent post race, I was awarded the lovely, white SA Champ’s jersey for the U23 Ladies category. 

I’m really happy with my progress in the XCO discipline this year, it has had its ups and downs for me – but overall I’m very glad it ended on a high note. This year’s focus was purely on building for the year’s to come, and has been a fantastic learning experience so far! 

Next year, I encourage more women to come along and give XCO a try – it would be great to see some more new faces on the start line. I believe the sport of cycling is really growing in South Africa at the moment, and I love the fact that almost everyday I see more young girls getting on bikes – the future is bright, let’s keep it that way.

Cheers!” – Tiffany // @tiffanykeep //