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SA's Myles Kelsey is eyeing out the rainbow striped jersey of the men's 40-44 downhill section of the UCI MTB Masters World Championships which take place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 21-25 August.

Photo: Ewald Sadie - esphotography.co.za/Gameplan Media

Now working as Sales Manager at Bicycling Magazine South Africa by day, Kelsey’s true passion is in fact for the mountain biking discipline of downhill and the masters competitor now has his sights set firmly on making the 40-44 age category’s rainbow striped jersey his own at this year’s Masters World Champs.

“I’m definitely going there to try win my age category’s title!” enthused Kelsey. “You don’t enter events like this not to try win!”

Cycling is something that has been in Kelsey’s blood for many years and, despite his journey through the sport seeing him taste nearly all disciplines, it is downhill he enjoys most these days.

“I started racing BMX when I was seven, bought my first mountain bike in 1987, did my first downhill race in 1990 and have taken a collective break from downhill of no more than three or so years ever since. It’s just something I really enjoy doing!

“I raced BMX, track, road, cross country as a youngster and I think this, particularly my BMX background, meant I’ve always had quite a good short pedal in me and my skill level has always been pretty decent too so the progression into downhill was quite natural for me.

“When I started working I just couldn’t find the time to train for cross country as much as I would have liked and so I shifted across to downhill. The move was quite an interesting one for me because it was almost as if I was moving a little closer back to my BMX roots.

Having been to two previous World Championships – the 2000 event in Spain as an elite competitor and before competing as a master in France in 2008 – Kelsey has a relatively good idea of what awaits him in Pietermaritzburg in August, as well as a sound appreciation of the importance of both the masters event and the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships – which follow immediately after the masters competition – not only for cycling in the region, but for the sport throughout the African continent as well.

Despite now living in the Western Cape, Maritzburg’s hosting of this year’s masters’ international showcase also carries extra significance for Kelsey, having spent much of his childhood in KZN’s capital and the city serving as the birthplace of his cycling interests.

“It’s obviously the first ever World Champs in Africa and the importance of the event to cycling throughout Africa is huge. There are some really big strides forward being taken in on the cycling front throughout the continent and so to have an event as big as this can only help in that process,” said Kelsey.

“Another special factor of this year’s World Champs is that the Maritzburg track is pretty unique compared to any other track around the globe which makes the event that bit more special too.

“On a personal note though, it’s pretty special for me that this year Masters World Champs are in Pietermaritzburg because I started racing bikes in PMB on the old BMX track in the ‘70s so it’s pretty sweet to be going back to compete there again 40 years later. It’s like going back home for me!” he added.

Knowing the advantage competitors gain from a sound understanding of the track, Kelsey is combining his past experience on the course together with the occasional trip up to PMB as he looks to piece together his title challenging plan of attack.

“The course is something really different to many others. The speeds guys reach there are just so high so it requires some unique preparation and some clever choice of equipment to do well there.

“I took part in the World Cup’s held in Pietermaritzburg in 2009 and 2011 and the track hasn’t changed too much since then. I also snuck up to PMB a couple of weeks ago and had a look and it really is looking good. The dreaded pedal section is just running so fast and the course in general is in great condition.

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