Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 30

PEOPLE | RIDERS WE LIKE if Saturday’s dream win wasn’t? Yes, I was very happy with the Cape Town Cycle Tour, I would say the great head space of winning the day before was enough to hold off the fatigue. I really enjoyed racing with the Songo.info team which had a massive team there, one of my highlights on South African soil. It was a dangerous finish, but once I made it to the front I was able to try sprint which ended up well! Well done on your win at the Commonwealth Games! Your compatriot, Anton Cooper, beat you four years ago, and he finished an impressive 6th overall at WC Stellenbosch, just two minutes back – what’s the rivalry like between the two of you and are you mates off the track? It was a great result for me at Commonwealth Games but that unfortunately entailed a poor decision from myself in the race. I’ve dealt with pressure before, but I let myself down handling things not the way I want. Anton is a great competitor, and it’s a blessing to have someone on the same level in the sport in the same country. Of course there is always the aim of being the best rider from your country, but it’s great to have the level so high in the early part of the year that sets the trend for the rest of the season. You have a strong team, including young U23 2nd place finisher Ben Oliver, so presumably teamwork will be encouraged by the team managers. Not an easy one for you and Anton I imagine, any thoughts on that? Ben rode a great race and is developing into a world class rider. It’s always nice to have the numbers from NZ, and it is great exposure for what is happening in the sport in NZ. I can speak for Anton on this as I’m sure he agrees that the more top athletes from the country the better, I am very impressed with how Ben’s tracked along and I’m sure he is set for great things in his career. Where do you do the majority of your riding when you’re home? I train in the Waikato, it’s always been easy to put in the work there with knowing every road and trail around. I do a lot of training in the redwoods at Rotorua. Along with a lot on the road for the pre-season training. Anyone who has ridden in Rotorua will agree it’s one of the world’s best trail networks. It’s been said that you intend to move to the road after a couple of years of MTB? That’s still a long way from now and I still am focusing on being the best MTBer I can. Of course that’s my plan in the future, but I have a lot more work to do on the trails before I can really consider the shift. You’ve been with Specialized for a while, did you get to know Burry Stander at all? Unfortunately, I didn’t, but I’ve heard of how truly great he was as a person. It’s the dark side to this sport and I can only imagine what the team went through with such a massive loss. I’d have loved to get to know Burry, knowing the positive impact he had on the sport. Tell us about your sponsors. I have a great support network with Specialized bicycles, LOOK pedals, Sponsor Nutrition, adidas Eyewear and Rotor. These guys all look after me really well. It’s always important to have good sponsors that see the same goal that you do, and I’m glad that is the case with everyone who supports me. You seemed to have an incredible run in SA, first winning the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB, then WC and almost pulled off the treble on the CTCT road. Were you tempted to race Cape Epic, and if not, is it something you’ll come back to sometime? Cape Epic is one of the things I really want to do, and I’d say in the future I’ll be racing there. I look forward to the chance to try have a good result, we have so many strong riders in Specialized that I’d always be able to ride with a very strong teammate, which is a great feeling. Which riders inspire you most, and who in your opinion is the GOAT? Ah that’s a hard one, I look up to many of the top riders. Of course there is Nino, Jaroslav and Julien who have dominated the sport in the modern era. It’s impossible not to idolise them. The rider I’ve always idolised is my coach, Christoph Sauser. He’s been the greatest in the world for a long time, but his attitude and work ethic is something I aspire to. I’m grateful he’s on my side, and there has to be a lot of credit given to him on how he’s shaped me as a person and as a rider. Your Specialized teammate, Alan Hatherly, almost hung in with you guys to the death at Commonwealth, despite having missed Stellenbosch with a broken wrist. Were you impressed with his bronze medal ride, especially after he made way for you chasing down Anton? I was blown away with Alan’s ride. He’s a hard worker and a massive talent. I was really happy for him and how he bounced back after his injury, and also believe he’ll continue to get better and better. TURN OVER TO SEE SAM'S WEAPON From left: Alan Hatherly shows off his Commonwealth bronze medal; Sam and teammate Simon Andreasson; winners at the songo.info #championsrace 30 | MTB | kiwi kahunas