Image credit: Craig Bishop/Gameplan Media

2014 will see the Kargo Pro MTB Team break new ground for the local mountain biking fraternity as they eagerly anticipate becoming the first ever South African mountain biking outfit to be registered with the International Cycling Union (UCI) as a UCI Cross Country MTB World Cup Trade team which would be the start of a remarkably special journey not only for Peschl and the Durban based outfit but for the sport of mountain biking throughout the country and possibly the African continent as well.

“We have progressed so much in the past two to three years but to be right on the edge of becoming a UCI MTB World Cup trade team now is just unreal!” enthused Peschl. “We have been so incredibly lucky with the sponsors that have come on board to help us and they have been really important in growing the team but each and every member of team needs a huge amount of credit as well for the contribution they have made in getting us to where we are now.

In preparation for the team’s exciting new journey, Peschl has assembled an immensely talented squad of athletes for the 2014 season with a couple of promising young stars joining the existing members of the team – headed by team number one and international superstar Rourke Croeser – increasing the all-South African unit’s base and showing it’s faith in young local competitors that Peschl aims to help grow into the next generation of top local mountain bike riders.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the new guys into the team formally next year, even though they’ve been preparing for next year with us for a couple of months already, and they really bring a huge amount of talent, strength and energy to our squad,” said Peschl. “It is also a really exciting move for them personally as they can really learn a lot from the likes of Rourke, who is an incredible role model both on and off the bike.

“Rourke is the ultimate professional which I think that the younger guys already have an incredible appreciation for and look up to him, making him an ideal mentor for our younger emerging stars.

“As these guys now know, being a full time mountain biker is a job, not just a sport, for them and representing the Kargo Mountain Bike Team means that they represent everyone involved in it and this is something they have all bought into whole-heartedly and are champing at the bit to start expressing themselves,” Peschl explained.

Whilst looking to grow each rider individually and having carefully plotted strategies for every member of the team, winning is still a vital element of the pro outfit’s plans. A thorough season analysis and goal-setting session, a number of big events on the 2014 calendar have been earmarked as victorious opportunities for both the team and its individual riders by Peschl.

“We want to be a top team and in order to do that we need to win so we can grow the profile of the team as well as the profiles of our individual riders. Many of our guys are also young and so giving them the exposure they deserve is huge for both them and us and regularly being on top of the podium will really help us achieve this as each and every UCI point won is crucial for our ranking.

“Our focus is mainly Cross Country mountain biking but we will continue to show an interest in marathon riding with the MTN Marathon Series being our marathon focus. Our approach is geared more towards Cross Country due to the fact that it is the only mountain biking discipline at the Olympic Games.

“In 2014 there are seven World Cup legs with Rourke going to all of them and the younger riders having the chance to compete in the home leg in Pietermaritzburg as well as taking part in the two European legs in Germany and the Czech Republic.

“Events like the African Cross Country Champs are events that we have targeted as ones we can do really well in and I know that Rourke is planning a full-out assault on the Elite men’s title there, despite it being his first year in that category having finished off his Under 23 career in 2013, and the younger guys are eying eyeing out a top spot in the junior and under 23 races as well.

“We have set out the national championships as well as the provincial cross country championships as events where we can do really well in too and seeing as Cycling South Africa have managed to secure UCI status for the Cross Country National Cup series it will again provide us with a chance to increase our points,” the team captain added.

Peschl is looking to next year’s UCI MTB World Cup showpieces as perfect opportunities for the team to get stuck into world class opposition in their black, white and green Kargo jersey’s and the subsequent experience preparing them for their ultimate goal – qualifying for the national team for events like the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and the Olympic Games.

“The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year is important for us because Rourke will be hoping to make the national squad in what is an important build-up to the Olympics,” an excited Peschl mentioned.

Professional outfits such as this would not exists without the belief and support of their sponsors and the Kargo Pro MTB Team are grateful for the people that have come on board and haven’t only supported them financially, but shared their vision, dreams and plans as well.

“Kargo have just been absolutely fantastic to us and without their support none of this would ever have been possible!” said Peschl. “Not only have they provided the financial support for us to go after our goals but they share in every achievement, disappointment and ounce of effort our riders go through and put in out there. It has been an unbelievable partnership thus far and we look forward to working closely with the for many years to come.

“Having a bike sponsor like Momsen Bikes has also been amazing. They have provided us with some of the best bikes and equipment around and with their support we continued our ‘proudly South African’ dream with 90% of our sponsors being locally based.

The teams leading rider Rourke Croeser understood the need for a purely South African team when he got on board with the Kargo Pro MTB Team and is hopeful that the benefits will be felt in the coming seasons.

“There was a stage when the European teams were taking advantage of South African riders and I saw that Shaun had this idea of creating a purely South African team and I decided that I was going to get behind it fully.

“I saw the dedication and determination of Shaun and I realised that I wanted to be a part of something he was involved in and with us having a young squad it gives me an opportunity to try and share the bit of knowledge that I have picked up with the other guys because there quite a few older riders around that are reluctant to share their knowledge,” Croeser added.

A strong team requires strong partners and sponsors and Peschl’s team have received major backing from their title sponsor Kargo. Leigh Oliviera, the National Marketing Manager of Kargo National believes that being involved in this specific mountain bike team represents the organisation perfectly.

“We feel that mountain biking encompasses and portrays a healthy and outdoor lifestyle,” Oliviera said. “The activity of mountain biking can be enjoyed on many different levels and with a number of our management and staff are mountain bikers and we really enjoy it!

“It was a logical step for us to get involved and we admire the outstanding levels of sportsmanship, professionalism and determination that the team shows and those are attributes our brand wants to be associated with,” Oliviera explained.

Victor Momsen, owner of Momsen Bikes, is very encouraged by the relationship that his brand has struck with the Kargo Pro MTB Team and feels that is the next progressive step in creating worldwide appeal for his brand and the new VIPA full suspension bike.

“Having been actively involved with racing and sponsorship within South Africa over the past three years, I see this partnership as the next level for the brand and our related product development ,” Momsen said. “As SA's first Pro MTB team to hold a UCI Trade Licence on the Cross Country circuit, we want to be the first SA bike brand to campaign and hopefully win on the World XCO circuit.”

One of the team’s recent signings, Patrick Belton, is over the moon about the opportunity his joining of Kargo MTB team presents him with and feels being part of the professional outfit can only enhance his riding.

“When I first arrived the thing that stood out for me the most was the professionalism of everyone involved, from Shaun and Rourke right through to the younger riders and our support staff, and that is something that I aspire to now as well.

“With such a strong team I know I will always be pushing myself to be the best I can be and hopefully that will see me getting to the Olympics, something that has always been at the back of my mind ever since I started competing,” Belton added aspiringly.

Kargo Mountain Bike Team for 2014:

Shaun Peschl, Rourke Croeser, Stuart Marais, Travis Walker, Patrick Belton, Paul Rodenbach, Siyabonga Njiva, Marco Joubert, James Damant.