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I was really disappointed today when South African Burry Stander (Specialized) did not win a medal in the Olympic Cross Country Mountain bike race.
Shortly after the race finished and I stopped being disappointed and thought about what he actually achieved. After starting on the front line, Burry found himself in about position 25, not for the first time this season.
On lap one he used his superior strength to work his way up the field. At this point the commentators had not mentioned him yet even though he is one of the top five best cross country mountain bikers in the world.
As he got into the top ten on lap two, they noticed the green and gold colours of South Africa.
To the delight of the thousands of people supporting him back home, he joined the three leaders in front.
Immediately, Olympic medalist Chris Boardman announced Stander as the favourite. But it was not to be as Stander felt the effect of chasing down world class athletes such as eventual winner Jaroslav Kulhavy and Nino Schurter and starting dropping off the pace and out of the medals. The support for Stander was incredible though.
The commentators mentioned him more than any other rider. I felt so proud to be South African.
I thought to myself how wonderful it is to actually be in a position to be disappointed that one of my fellow countryman did not win a medal at the Olympic games in cycling.
We have very little infrastructure to support our cyclists in South Africa compared to the Great Britain’s and Australia’s of this world but here was an African Mountain Bike kid setting the Olympics alight.
Burry, a medal would just have been the cherry on the top.
You did a nation proud today.
Nice feature on Astana’s Simon Clarke.
“I thought that was it – the next step was just waiting for them to send through an offer. In the week after the test my old Amica Chips director, Giuseppe Martinelli (who is at Astana) messaged me from this random French number, saying, ‘If I can get you a spot at Astana would you be willing to come back and ride with me?’
I love Theo de Rooij’s comments form the 1985 edition; “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping … it’s a pile of shit.” And then when then asked if he would be back next year;
“Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”
Taken from Laurence Guttmann
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