Experienced stage racer Yolande de Villiers is ready to show her competitive side when she joins forces with Neill Ungerer to tackle the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race next week.
Despite holding down a fulltime job, the Oudtshoorn rider said she was always focused on getting a podium spot and ready to give it her all when the three-day event started at the Zuurberg Mountain Village, near Port Elizabeth, on May 26.
She is particularly keen on renewing her partnership with Ungerer, from George, after they won the mixed section in the GR300 in Knysna last month to add to their title in the Cape Pioneer Trek late last year.
“Neill is such a great partner. He is super strong on the bike but he doesn’t kill me or try to race me,” said De Villiers, who will be riding for Dryland-Ultimate Cycling.
“He looks after me. On the open roads he will do the work in front and on the single-track he will also go in front to give the best lines,” said the former national marathon and Cape Epic champion.
“In mixed racing, the girl is in the red zone most of the time, but Neill is able to manage me and look after me. He is also a very positive person and we have lots of laughs and fun on and off the bike.”
With both of them having grown up in Oudtshoorn, they are accustomed to hot and testing conditions and De Villiers said she felt this made them “harder riders”.
“We both have strong minds and quitting is never an option. We don’t have loads of time to train, but we do everything we can to be as well prepared as possible.”
De Villiers said her season’s highlight was placing second overall in the three-day Tankwa Trek in February alongside Mariske Strauss.
According to her, Zuurberg provided a memorable experience in all aspects.
“I’m absolutely in love with the Eastern Cape,” she said. “The trails are world-class, the accommodation is luxurious and the food is magnificent.
“The smell of elephants and citrus makes it a magical experience.”
Happy with her form and fitness, De Villiers said the big challenge which faced them was to be free of mechanicals.
“Mechanicals can cost a lot of time so it is a case of choosing your lines and being very careful.
“I have not seen a list of the entrants, but I know the competition in the GZT is always good.”
De Villiers said she had no particular goals beyond being involved in as many races as possible.
“I just love cycling. It still gives me such pleasure and enjoyment. I want to compete in as many events as I can afford to.”