At the beginning of 2012 nobody would have taken any notice of Gawie Combrink (Westvaal Columbia) when he lined up at the start of a mountain bike race.

But things have definitely changed during the past five months.

When Combrink arrives at the start these days, the race favourites have reason to greet him with respect.

Combrink has become the latest success story of a road cyclist who turned into an accomplished mountain biker.

He has won the Nissan TrailSeeker Tyger Valley 70km marathon, and the Le Coq Sportiff mountain bike tour.

Another highlight for him was when he and Nico Bell finished 8th overall in the Absa Cape Epic. When asked about his success as a born-again mountain biker, Combrink does not hesitate to praise Bell for his patience.

Gawie Combrinck on his way to victory 2012 Nissan TrailSeeker 1 Tyger Valley-0347.jpg

"Nico basically taught me everything that I know now about mountain biking and I still learn from him every time we race or train together."

According to Combrink, he still has much to learn before he will be able to claim that he is a true mountain biker.

"I definitely still need to work hard on improving my technical skills. I still battle to take the right lines in the technical sections and this can lead to me overshooting corners and going down hard. "Luckily I have not broken anything yet."

The fact that he still considers himself to be a mountain bike apprentice does not mean that Combrink has not set himself definite goals.

"I want to do my utmost to win the Nissan TrailSeeker Series overall. It is also important for me to get good results in the MTN National MTB ultra-marathon series.

The next race in the Nissan TrailSeeker Series is the Diamond Rush (14 July) in Cullinan.

"If you take to mountain biking like women take to diamonds, do not miss this race," is how the organizers market their event.

The route traverses areas that are inaccessible under normal circumstances due to diamond mining operations. Winding single and jeep tracks will take the riders through pristine areas and over river crossings where they can still stop and drink the water.

The route options are 70 km, 40 km, 20 km and 10 km, each with its own excitement. The long distance route takes riders through areas where wild game roam, and even past a lion enclosure.

The riders will ride on the verge of a massive water fall, as well as through a cave.

"You will not find a better mountain biking route than this one," is the promise of the organizers.

For more information about the upcoming races please visit www.advendurance.com