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Image credit: Absa Cape Epic

Brittain's track record so far in the Gauteng based Nissan TrailSeeker Series is testament to this. Brittain finished fourth at Nissan TrailSeeker Hazeldean and was third at the Nissan TrailSeeker Diamond Rush in Cullinan.

The Olympic gold medallist rower from the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre (HPC), who temporarily switched to mountain biking because of a serious back injury, is definitely one of this season’s big surprises.

The Nissan TrailSeeker Hakahana 70km race will be there for the taking because -- due to the chaotic local calendar -- the top riders will be competing all over the country. It might just turn out to be a battle between Brittain, Johann Rabie (NuWater) and the hard pedalling engineer, Jan Withaar.

If Brittain should walk away with the win he may just be in contention for an overall victory of the Nissan TrailSeeker Series. There is an odd chance that James Thompson, Brittain’s Olympic gold medallist teammate, could also compete at Hakahana.

It all depends on whether he will be back in time from his honeymoon. Brittain and Thompson were one of the revelations of the Absa Cape Epic when they finished 39th overall without any mountain

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bike specific training, they are also planning to compete in the Cape Pioneer Trek later this year.

“This means that we want to race as often as possible from now until the Cape Pioneer Trek,” Brittain said.

Brittain is actually somewhat despondent at the moment because at this stage it seems as if he might have to miss out on another year of competitive rowing.

The back injury that forced him to quit rowing for this season does not seem to get any better.

“When I was at school I did not look after myself very well and at the university we did not at first have the setup that we have at the moment. This meant that I had to do a lot of training on my own without doing the proper stretches. So I damaged my back.

“I have been nursing my back this season, but I am beginning to think that the writing might be on the wall for me. I will see if I can find some other remedies. There are quite a few ‘whackos’ out there that I could try if I should have to resort to some less traditional means of recovery. Who knows, maybe something will work for me.

“If I cannot be 100% fit, I won’t even try to qualify for the Games again. It just won’t be fair to me or my teammates. To compete at the highest level you need to trust your body and be able to train and compete at 100 to 101%, not 99%. That last percentage is what makes the real difference in the end. At the moment I am not capable of putting in a 100% effort and therefore I might as well not do it at all.”

Because of the setback with his back, Brittain would love to become a more competitive mountain biker next year.

“The Hakahana event is still relatively new in the Nissan TrailSeeker Series, but we had a good turnout and also good feedback last year,” said Tim Fair, route Director. “Yet at Advendurance, we believe that ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘great’, and therefore we have invested a lot of time and effort in improving the event still further.

“Johan Vorster, owner of Hakahana, has spent the past 9 months on building and perfecting new single tracks specifically for the TrailSeeker event. This year’s route has been refined to make it more enjoyable. The infamous concrete climb was replaced by awesome hand-built single tracks as well as separate return routes for all distances, which will mean less congestion.

“The addition of some great new feature sections such as the ‘Wagon Trail’, ‘Rinkhals’, ‘Tosca's Freepass’ and ‘Bains Brain’, will ensure that riders have an unforgettable experience at Nissan TrailSeeker Hakahana.”