Italian national champion Eva Lechner comes to South Africa with a great chance of taking the UCI MTB and Trials title after her courageous performance at the World Cup in Andorra.

Photo: EGO-Promotion/Gameplan Media

The Colnago team rider has just completed the Andorra leg of the UCI MTB World Cup and finished in a respectable third place overall in the women’s elite category, the top performance even more impressive due to Lechner having been ill for the week leading up to the race.

“After the World Cup in Andorra I was quite tired,” Lechner said. “I had been sick beforehand so I used all of my energy in the race.

“In saying that, I think I am in really good shape physically and mentally at the moment, otherwise I wouldn’t have ridden such a good race.”

Producing a result like that under the strain that she was under will give the 17 time Italian national champion an important boost ahead of the World Champs.

“After a week of being sick I actually achieved more than I had expected because I was really close to another victory. Of course I would have wanted to win but I am more than content with my result in Andorra.”

Lechner still has an event to compete in before the final phase of fine tuning for the World Champs begins and her next race could well prove to be the final ‘dress rehearsal’ for the big event in Africa’s “Bike City” at the end of August.

“There is a World Cup in Canada that I will be competing in first and then we have got a team camp where we will polish up and get ready to head to South Africa for the World Champs.”

Familiarity with the conditions could well prove vital in the gaining of those vital seconds and meters over one’s opponents, an advantage Lechner enjoys having gotten to know the Cascades course well in recent years and will need to use in its entirety if she is to challenge for the title.

“I have competed in South Africa three times before and I have also done the Cape Epic once.

“I really enjoy the course in Pietermaritzburg. It is hard and technically challenging and those are the conditions that I enjoy racing in,” said the Italian national champion.

With the event taking place at the end of August the South African spring will be in the air, however few would be brave enough to predict exactly what conditions the riders will be presented come race day.

“The only thing I hope is that if it’s raining, it is not raining hard because the ground gets like ice then which can be very dangerous,” explained Lechner.

“The course becomes totally different when it rains,” she added.

Going into the World Champs Lechner is seen by many as one of the favourites for the women’s crown after producing a string of top results throughout the year, including a first place finish in the first World Cup event in Germany and a second place in the European Continental Championship.

A temporary slump in form slowed her down momentarily after that however the determined competitor has started finding her feet again well, helped greatly by her positive result in Andorra.

Improving on her sixth place at last year’s World Championships is going to be a major goal for Lechner and being able to get into the top three is her ultimate prize.

“I really want to win a medal this year at the world champs,” Lechner mentioned confidently.

The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from21 to 25 August. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za