Sprint finishes are by no means unfamiliar territory for Croeser, having claimed victory in numerous tight encounters recently, however the fight-back that was needed to claim this year’s Hill2Hill win over Brandon Stewart (FedGroup–Itec Connect) and fellow under 23 star Brendon Davids (Specialized SA) was a solid reflection of the form and power of the rapidly emerging 23 year old cross country star.
“It was close. Very very close,” chuckled Croeser afterwards. “I made a small mistake coming into the finish but fortunately I had the legs to pull it back and take the win which I was really happy about. It was my first Hill 2 Hill win. I’ve had some pretty bad luck at the race before where I’ve torn ligaments in my shoulder, broken teeth, and had punctures, so to win this year really was great!” he said.
Croeser’s victorious effort was the cherry on the top for the local Kargo outfit as four of the team’s members finished within the top eleven finishers of the coveted 100km clash.
Apart from Croeser’s top step of the podium achievement, team new comers Travis Walker and Patrick Belton finished sixth and ninth place respectively whilst Stuart Marais claimed a rewarding eleventh.
“To be given an opportunity like Trav (Walker) and Patrick (Belton) have is really special but to have seen how prepared they have been to come halfway through a season and look to put up their hand is really great. I’m really hoping to help them as much as I can over the next little while and try assist a few more youngsters to have the opportunity to race internationally,” said Croeser.
Despite not helping heal the wounds entirely, Croeser’s victory on the weekend did help start what he will be hoping is a period of recovery after his disappointment of the recent UCI MTB & Trials World Championships in Pietermaritzburg.
Having worked tirelessly in the build up to the spectacle on home turf where he was hoping to put in a top performance, Croeser’s dreams were dashed just meters from the start line as a broken chain forced him to run the first 2,5km of the opening lap, effectively ending his competitive challenge.
“Over a year of preparation went into World Champs, so obviously the disappointment of what happened was really difficult to overcome. After Worlds I took four full days off, where I didn’t get on the bike at all, just to try clear the head and re-gather my thoughts.
“You can’t dwell on the past though so I got going again fairly soon afterwards and now it’s about looking ahead to what is in front of me and I’ve got some really good opportunities just around the corner which I really am looking forward to.”
With the Hill2Hill dust hardly having settled, Croeser’s bags are already packed and Tuesday sees the young star jet off to the East where he will take part in the Guiyang Invitational MTB Festival in China and then the Tour of Malaysia, a trip the Ballito resident keenly awaits.
“If you plan your season properly you can really look to have some fun in the last bit of the year and I’m really looking forward to this trip,” explained the Kargo Pro MTB team member.
“I head to China on Tuesday to take part in a World Cup test event. It’s an invitational event where there is just one elite category and many of the world’s best will be there. China are desperately trying to secure a World Cup leg in the near future so they don’t spare any expense whatsoever and they really treat you like rockstars.
“From there I then head to Malaysia for an eight stage event which will be my first ever international stage event so I’m really excited. I did the Cape Epic earlier this year but this is a little more of a cross country event and on a global stage so it will be great to try test myself and see if I’m as good as I think I am!” he added.