Maritzburg’s hosting of Worlds excites SA’s adopted MTB son

Pietermaritzburg – Defending World Champion Christoph Sauser jets into South Africa early this week ahead of the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June, extremely about excited to be racing in a country he describes as ‘home away from home’.

The Specialized Racing ace snatched victory from hometown hero Alban Lakata (Topeak-Ergon Racing Team) in 2013’s showdown in Austria and is now bubbling with excitement ahead of racing getting underway in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 29 June.

“Every single World Championship is very special but coming to South Africa for Worlds this year is definitely on a whole new level of specialness!” described the 38-year-old triple MTB Marathon World Champ enthusiastically.

“I spend a little bit less than a third of my year in South Africa, mostly in Stellenbosch, and every time I arrive I have that feeling of coming home while I just love the whole South African lifestyle!”

There is no question as to what Sauser’s sole aim is for this year’s World Champs – successfully defending his global crown.

The event will however also carry far great meaning for Sauser who has countless deeper connections to the host nation than just his illustrious racing history on South African soil.

“There will be many of my South African friends and fans cheering me on, which is huge motivation for me, and I hope I can give something back to them during the four hours of racing as well as to Burry (Stander) who unfortunately misses this one!” said Sauser of the late South African cycling legend who was a former team mate and good friend of Sauser’s before he was tragically killed on 3 January 2013.

“I would not have liked to compete against him during the four hours on his home soil!” Sauser added warmly.

As if the Rainbow Nation offering Sauser home ground-like advantage and his local supporters and the memory of Stander driving him on weren’t enough of a head start the Specialized Racing rider over his nearest rivals already, there is a further local motivating factor.

“I have some very good friends in South Africa, the weather is great, the people are friendly, there are so many perfect trails plus my charity – songo.info – is in South Africa!

For me it is important to inspire the Songo kids and to see the Sipho Madolo has qualified for Worlds and been selected to represent South Africa is just amazing!

“It is super special that I will be on the start line together with him!” added Sauser proudly.

Despite his numerous South African ties and love for the country, Sauser was hesitant to rate the chances of a local rider finishing on the podium in Pietermaritzburg citing the South African riders’ lack of regular global exposure being the key hindrance.

“Unfortunately I doubt there will be any South African riders who can keep up with the pace of the Europeans,” said Sauser honestly. “The South Africans have to race in Europe all summer long if they are to lift their game. It is very difficult to develop any other way!”

“One of the major problems SA riders have is their sponsors are based in SA and these sponsors want their riders to have a presence within their home country.

“It is important to get out of the comfort zone and go and race against the best regularly which is impossible to do in South Africa.

“Burry was a good example, he went to America at a very young age already and that really helped in his development,” explained the globally renowned marathon star.

The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za

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Having spent a number of years riding in South African Specialized Racing star Christoph Sauser feels right at home when he is here and will have the late Burry Stander on his mind when he takes on the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 29 June. Action Pictures Ireland/Gameplan Media

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