With the inaugural edition of the Mzansi Tour kicking off in Mpumalanga on Wednesday 17 April Stewart will have his hands full as he looks to burn some rubber on the roads when he tackles the new event as part of his FedGroup – Itec Connect team.
Brandon Stewart (FedGroup - Itec Connect) will be forced to make a last minute call on whether he will compete in the final stage of the inaugural Mzansi Tour or endure a race against time to make it back to KZN for Sunday's 60km Sappi Karkloof Classic.
Supplied/ Gameplan Media
And so, with the tour’s final stage of the road race only finishing on Sunday, it would seem impossible for the Hilton based star to continue his remarkable record of having competed in every Karkloof Classic since its inception.
However for Stewart, labelling a task “impossible” simply makes it a challenge, and he is determined to find a way of helping his team into a strong position over the first four days of the Mzansi Tour before racing back for the hometown event he is hugely passionate about.
Despite having led for most of the way Brandon Stewart (far right) was forced to celebrate his fellow FedGroup - Itec Connect team mate, Jacques Rossouw's, victory in the feature race of the 2012 Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival.
Impi Concept Events/ Gameplan Media
“I’ve done every single Karkloof Classics since the race first started. I’ve never missed one and it’s always one I pencil into the calendar right at the beginning of the year,” said Stewart. “So, it would be very sad if I had to miss this year’s event!
“It’s such a great race and I love being able to support local events. Karkloof is pretty close to where I live and, especially now that it’s part of the ROAG Series too, it really would be great to somehow fit in both the Mzansi Tour and the Karkloof Classic.
“At this stage my wife, Bridgette, and our mechanic are more than likely going to head back for the Karkloof Classic on Sunday and, only if the team is in a position for me to do so, then I will also drive back after the second to last stage of the tour on Saturday and take part in the Karkloof Classic on Sunday.
Having led for the majority of last year’s 60km affair, Stewart was eventually reeled in by fellow team mate Jacques Rossouw and James Reid (BMC-SA) just a couple of kilometers from the finish, forcing him to watch his maiden victory at the event ripped away before his eyes.
Brandon Stewart (left) stands alongside FedGroup - Itec Connect team mate and 2012 victor Jacques Rossouw and second place finisher James Reid at last year's the Sappi Karkloof Classic.
Impi Concept Events/ Gameplan Media
After being forced to settle for third place overall last year, Stewart is now relishing the opportunity to make amends in 2013 should the planets align and he is able to trade his road bike for his MTB overnight and get himself onto the Karkloof Classic start line.
“I lead for most of the way last year but I was caught with two or three kilometers to go and having gone out on my own I was a bit blown by then so didn’t have enough left in the tank.
“Fortunately I was able to support Jacques (Rossouw) in the end sprint and he went on to win, which was great for the team, but now it would be really awesome to try get my first win this year.
“The Karkloof Classic would be a great race for me to win. I’ve been struggling a little this season but things have slowly started feeling a bit better and my training is really starting to improve so if I’m able to make it to Karkloof this year then I would definitely love to be able to challenge for the title!
Despite his impressively long list of cycling feats, some may question Stewart’s ability to combine success on the road for four long, tough days before reigning victorious in the feature race of South Africa’s largest MTB Festival as well.
For Stewart though a good understanding of his own body and the shorter format of the Karkloof Classic means he could well have what it takes to do both.
“Obviously after four days on the road the legs might be a little fatigued but I’m feeling pretty good at the moment and the mountain bike stretch is only over sixty kilometers which is much shorter than the 100 plus kilometers stages we’ll be doing at the tour.
“The shorter distance also means you have to be a whole lot sharper and this, together with all the fantastic work the guys put into making the trails what they are, makes for some real fun and excitement which really helps you pick yourself up and give it your all.
“So I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to manage both the tour and the MTB.
The Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival takes place from 19-21 April at Karkloof Country Club. Riders and spectators alike can stay up to speed with all the news and developments via the event’s Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB). More info can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za