After the first three races in the MTN ultra-series have been completed, it should be no surprise that Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) is currently the leader. Because of his aggressive approach to racing he has already accumulated 11 705 points so far this season.
Keey’s success in the MTN series can be ascribed to his consistency. He was victorious in Sabie and Tulbagh and finished third in Barberton.
The 21-year-old Lourens Luus (RE:CM) is second with 10 815 points. He is followed by Waylon Woolcock with 10 647 points, Nico Bell (Westvaal/Bell Cycles) with 9758 points and Erik Kleinhans (RE:CM) with 9755 points.
Max Knox (Specialized/EAI Solutions), last year’s MTN Series winner, is currently in 8th position with 7717 points. It should be remembered, however, that Knox did not compete at Tulbagh.
When asked what he considers to be the highlight of his season, Keey did not hesitate to say that it was his victory at Sabie.
“Winning the Sabie Race of the Marathon World Series was really very special. It was the first race of the season and my victory put me, tied with the Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, in first place on the UCI World Rankings.
“Although I did not achieve everything that I wanted to during this year’s Cape Epic, it was the first time that I was able to race right up there at the sharp end, with the best riders in the world, without being physically outclassed. This experienced boosted my confidence and made me adjust my goals for the future.”
Keey was always considered to be talented but, until recently, he has not really risen to the occasion.
“I think I have surprised many people but, actually, my cycling abilities have been building up for a couple of years.
“I have felt for a long time that I was not achieving my full potential. It was crucial that I surrounded myself with people who believed in me and helped me to achieve my goals.
“I always had great form when I competed in the MTN Series. Unfortunately, I struggled to convert my good form into good results at times when it really mattered. There were various reasons for this.
“In 2012 I raced almost the full calendar, but I also had to concentrate on my studies. I actually surprised myself by winning about 15 races, including stages in Sani2C and the Karoo to Coast.
“This season I teamed up with Darren Lill. Because he is a former SA Champion on the road, I didn’t want to let him down. Maybe this is why I was a bit more focused than before.
“More self-confidence, as well as proper coaching, also helped me to achieve my most successful season so far.”
Who is your coach at the moment?
“I have been working with Dr Jeroen Swart since about September last year and have been very happy with the results.
“Apart from coaching me, he has also helped to improve my confidence when I am on the bike. He knows what numbers you need to do to win. If you are able to hit your targets when going into a race, it puts you in a more positive mind-set.”
“As far as long-term goals are concerned, I will have to sit down some time to reassess where I want to go in mountain biking and what will be achievable.
“If I should ever get an opportunity to race on the road in Europe at the top level, I would definitely consider it. On the other hand, our local mountain-biking marathon scene is really world class.”
Do you have any interesting hobbies that help you to relax when you are not cycling?
If I have time, I like to do some gardening. When not completely exhausted by my training programme, I occasionally go for a walk in the mountain.”