It is a race against the clock for defending elite women’s South African Cross Country Champion Mariske Strauss who is still recovering from a serious ankle injury as she fights to be ready for the Stihl SA MTB Championships presented by Subaru Cape Town/Novus Holdings in Stellenbosch on Saturday 18 July.
It has been a tough road to recovery for the 24 year old since she injured her ankle in Pietermaritzburg in June however the Novus OMX Pro Team rider is happy with the support team that she has around her and has the bigger picture in mind.
“I am currently still on crutches and will make a call at the end of this week whether I will be fit to ride in the SA Champs,” Strauss said. “It is frustrating but I have great support structures around me and with a long season still ahead I don’t want to rush back into anything if I am not ready.
“The most unfortunate thing about this is that it is not up to me, if I’m not fit I am not fit and won’t risk another serious injury.”
Although the chance to retain her South African Cross Country title might not be a viable one for Strauss being able to host a national championships so close to home as well as potentially compete in a national champs in her home town is very appealing along with the fact that her father is involved in creating the cross country course.
“Racing at home in a national championships is something that every athlete wants to do. The motivation behind racing on tracks that you know well and are comfortable on is strong, and it helps that it is a stunning venue!
“The technicality of the course is up there with some of the best courses in the world and if the rain comes it will make for a very interesting race.
“We have to travel right passed my faculty building to get to the course that is how close it is to home!” she added cheerfully.
Along with the injury it has not been a season of smooth sailing for Strauss who is currently under work pressure with a University of Stellenbosch BSc in Sports Science degree at the forefront of her mind however if she is unable to take part in the national championships then she is backing team mate Cherie Vale to take the spoils.
“Nothing has really gone as planned for me this season and I am also under a bit of pressure as I’m in third year of my degree so it has been tough to get the balance between riding and studying right.
“Cherie (Vale) has been going really well recently and she has improved incredibly so I would definitely back her to go one better this year, she is my team mate and a great friend so I would love to see her win!
“With that said you cannot write off Bianca (Haw), she is really strong! Candice (Neethling) is also always a threat although I haven’t seen her in a while so I am not too sure how she is going at the moment,” Strauss mentioned cautiously.
Strauss’ father Bryan has been involved in cycling for a number of years and will assist in developing the course for the national championships and with his extensive experience Strauss is sure that it will be a challenging course.
“He really does like to make things difficult!” she chuckled. “With the experience that he has gathered over the years he is always trying to make the sport of mountain biking better.
“He has seen so many international tracks and is sharing that knowledge with the guys here to create something that would be accepted on an international stage,” she explained.