Zimbabwean Paul Collins has had a short mountain biking career but is looking forward to the challenge of his first UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships.
Photo: Supplied/Gameplan Media

It has not been a long relationship with mountain biking for Collins but he has forever had a love affair with adventure and endurance sports having taken part in a number of the bigger endurance races in South Africa and throughout the rest of the continent.

“I have only been riding MTB since 2006, before that I was running including a couple of Comrades but had to cut back on running due to a dodgy disc in my lower back,” Collins said.

“I still do a fair amount of running, mainly competing in triathlon events including the half and full Ironman events in South Africa but I do a lot of half standard events here in Zimbabwe during the triathlon season.

“I like to mix it up and since I have been mountain biking I have done a couple of interesting events like the Kiliman, which entailed hiking to the top of Kilimanjaro then a two day bike race around the mountain and on the next day the Kilimanjaro Marathon,” he mentioned.

The adventure sports stalwart has participated in the African MTB Championships before but will be involved in his first World Champs when he arrives in Pietermaritzburg for the event. He has been fairly successful in his relatively short career including a respectable finish at the Zambezi Man.

“The Zambezi man consists of one day rafting followed by mountain biking back to Victoria Falls the next day followed by the Victoria Falls Marathon on the last day.

“I managed to end in second place on that event,” he added proudly.

There is not a massive mountain biking fraternity in Zimbabwe slightly due to the financial instability in the country but the riders that there are in the country tend to stick to mountain biking rather than road cycling. The amount of competitive riding in Zimbabwe is not on a par with South Africa but there are a few opportunities for riders.

“There is a lot of great mountain biking in Zimbabwe and although the biking population is comparatively small, more cyclist are going off road.

“We do have a few stage races over the year in various parts of the country as well as a few one day events but all marathon type distances rather than cross country format,” mentioned Collins.

The Zimbabwe national championships were held recently and Collins showed off his class taking the 40+ and 50+ categories in the mountain biking section.

The Zimbabwe national champion has not set himself too higher goals for the Masters competition and understands that there are going to be a lot of very good riders from all over the world.

“if I come in the top half of the field at World Champs I will be happy because I know the competition is going to be a lot tougher than what we have back home.

“I’m a bit wary of the technical stuff but as always I will give it my best shot and relish the challenge and look forward to the buzz such a prestigious event generates,” he said.

Mountain biking does not just stop at Paul in the Collins household, his son is also on his way to the Cascades MTB Park to compete in the Spur Schools MTB Challenge.

“My son and some other kids were organised to compete in the Spur schools MTB KZN event being held at Cascades the week before Masters.

“He is in the Zimbabwe team that will compete at the SA schools finals in September so this is a warm up event for him,” added Collins.

This coincides well with the Masters as well as with the UCI MTB and Trials World Championships that will take place the week following the Masters and gives the children as well as Collins the opportunity to watch the best riders in the world in action.

“We are also taking some of the other juniors down who will compete at the World Champs and then it will give them the chance to see top professionals ride, especially the Downhill guys, that was the clincher!”

The UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 21 August to 25 August 2013. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za