He is also a coach who has the knack to get riders to believe in their own cycling abilities and become winners in their own right.

Erik Kleinhans (RE:CM), Sauser’s latest protégé, is a good example of this. During the past weekend (9-10 February) Kleinhans won the second stage of Ride the Rock in the Cederberg.

Judging by his performance in the Attakwas ultra-race in which he finished third, just behind Sauser, chances are good that he might be one of the major role players at the UCI MTN Sabie ultra-race (23 February).

Kleinhans was unlucky at the MTN Barberton ultra-race. He was up there with the leaders until the last few kilometres but, unfortunately, when it really mattered he was brought to an abrupt halt by mechanical problems.

Kleinhans is not one to speculate beforehand on the possible outcome of a race.

“It would be great if I could hold my current good form until Sabie, but just keep in mind that Sabie is an UCI-sanctioned race. This means that some of the world’s best riders will be competing.

“I know Germany’s Karl Platt (four-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic) and his Bulls teammates will be there. Their participation alone will be enough to change everybody’s approach to the race.

“But I can promise this. If I have good legs and there is an opportunity, I will definitely do my best to make the most of it. But remember, mountain biking is a very unpredictable sport. Nothing is ever certain until you have reached the finish.”

So far this season, the turn-about in Kleinhans has been one of the major surprises.

Last year Kleinhans and his wife, Ariane, dominated the mixed categories of all the important local tours.

They were victorious at the Joburg2C, Sani2C and the Cape Epic and many people believed that Kleinhans was at best a rider who excels in mixed category races.

But this is not true any longer. What brought about this change? “I could not have made a better decision than to start training with Christoph (Sauser) since January.

“He is now my official coach and he works out my training schedules. It is a great motivation if a former world champion is prepared to help you. I think the most important thing that Christoph did was to persuade me to ride out of my comfort zone.

“Being part of the RE:CM Team is another reason for my better results. It certainly helps if you belong to a team and your only worry is riding your bike.

According to Kleinhans his wife, Ariane, will be hard to beat at Sabie.

Ariane Kleinhans won the Ride the Rock womens’ tour overall and she was also victorious at Attakwas.

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