Cherie racing the XCO race at the Sabine Spitz Gold Trophy in Europe. Image By Ego Promotions It must have been disappointing not being able to secure a spot on a pro team for this year. Judging by your results early in the year you’re certainly in good form, both in terms of fitness and mentally. How did you overcome that initial disappointment and doubt, and does that ever come creeping back?
It was demotivating not finding a pro team for 2017. Often I felt like I was not good enough and a few times thought of stopping racing altogether. At some point I realised however, that it was not because I was not good enough, but rather that I was currently in no man’s land. I wasn’t racing in South Africa enough to warrant a local company/team to sponsor me and I wasn’t known well enough in Europe, nor had any relationships built up there, to secure sponsorships. Thankfully, I have good support from family and friends, which keeps me motivated.What helped me overcome the disappointment is that I looked at where I was, where I am now and where I want to be. I couldn’t let a small setback stop me when I feel I haven’t reached my full potential. The first few races of the year I had no expectations and just took every race as it came. This worked really well for me. The doubts start creeping in again, now that I have higher expectations and added pressure to get into a team for next year, especially when I don’t get the results I aim for. Doubt will always be there but it is whether you let it control you which will decide if you keep going or not. I just try and focus on the small steps and control what I can.
What was behind your decision to leave South Africa for Europe?
It is something that Heiko and I have been planning to do for some time. We wanted to explore and experience life abroad.A personal reason for me was the level of racing in Europe. It is a lot more competitive and there are XCO races every weekend. I realised, that in order to improve as an athlete, I needed exposure to this on a more regular basis.
Catching the train to the airport is pretty simple but does become a little tricky when you are on your own with lots of luggage. How does living and training in Germany differ from South Africa? What are the pros and cons?
I don’t think I have lived in Germany long enough to be able to compare everything and we’re told it was a milder winter than usual, but here are my experiences so far.Pros So many cycle lanes you hardly have to train on the road. Added to that, we have a lot of trails in and around Schweinfurt. The only thing I am missing is a long and steep climb to do my 10 minute intervals on.
Summer days are pretty awesome. You have too much daylight and have to be disciplined to go to bed before the sun sets… thank goodness for shutters.
It is safe to ride pretty much everywhere.
The German Autobahn is amazing. I am not too sure how I am going to stick to the speed limit when I visit SA.
The public transport is very good but is limiting when traveling to smaller towns, where almost all of the races are. Cons In Germany, the winter days are much shorter than I am used to. By the time it feels warm enough to ride and you manage to complete a session, the day is basically over.
I don’t see many people riding, especially in winter and if I do meet someone they are usually very reserved. In South Africa most times I would go out riding alone, but usually bumped into someone and we would finish the ride together.
There are a lot more restrictions to building trails and you have to be careful not to collide with hikers or dog walkers.
The cost of living is higher and there are a lot of regulations, but then again things work.
The language barrier is probably the biggest hurdle at the moment.
Winter is stunning and I wish I took more images but the burning feeling when my hands got cold was not worth it at times. Does the excitement and stress of having moved countries distract you from riding at all?
It does have an effect but I have learnt to contain my excitement since I am now living in Europe and have gotten used to the surroundings. When I get too excited, especially when we go to the Alps, I just have to focus on the now and keep calm. I experienced some over excitement at Lenzerheide last year where I did too much and ended up getting sick.The stress of the move has taken its toll but the biggest stress has been not having a financial sponsor. It hasn’t affected my physical performance but has had an effect on my mental focus. On race day, I need to try put these emotions aside and focus on the race.
One of the many bike lanes in Germany We often hear about the gruelling races in the Swiss Cup. How tough is it really and are you enjoying the experience of racing domestically in Europe?
The competition is definitely tougher here, especially when the race is a HC or C1. It is easy to get around in Europe and therefore there are usually a lot of top riders from different nations racing. Switzerland definitely has the strongest depth of riders. They seem to have the right formula for developing XCO. Tracks in Europe seem to be naturally technical and steep, but I won’t say they are tougher than in SA.Racing domestically in Europe has been amazing and it is extra special to have Heiko with me. I am starting to get to know riders on a personal level whom I have only raced against before. On the other hand, not knowing a lot of the riders helps me focus on my own race and on being the best in the world and not just in South Africa.
Talk us through a World Cup race weekend. How does your experience as a privateer differ from when you were with a pro team?
I have had two different experiences at the World Cups I have raced so far. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes when Heiko is able to come with.For the Czech Republic World Cup Heiko wasn’t able to join so I had to arrange transport. I was hoping to avoid driving, but to catch a train worked out to be longer and not much cheaper than hiring a car. At least I had the company of Stuart Marais so I didn’t have to do the trip alone. It was pretty stressful driving on the right side of the road for the first time and for six hours straight. The week leading up to the race was also rather stressful, so when we got there I used most of my free time to sleep. I over rested and my body was still in recovery mode by the time I raced. Luckily there wasn’t much work to be done on my bike and during the race, I had support from the Head Ciclo XC Team. For the World Cups in Albstadt and Lenzerheide, I was lucky to have Heiko coming with so I could focus more on my race without the extra stress. We don’t have a car yet so we hire one for races. The usual procedure would be to fetch the car the morning before we drive to the race. We have all the luggage and food pre-packed so when Heiko arrives with the car we can just pack and leave. We plan to leave Thursday or Friday for races so I get at least 2 days on the course to practice. Once we are at the venue we go out onto the track and check the course, with the focus on getting my lines right. The rest of the pre-race setup will be checking through my bike, going to the team managers meeting, registering and visualisation of my racing. For races, Heiko is pretty much my mechanic, masseuse, technical coach and driver. I help with the cooking and small bits and bobs. Race day I don’t have to stress about getting my stuff to someone else. Heiko has it all sorted. What is great is that even though Heiko is there, Thomas from the Head Ciclo XC Team helps out and lets us use their team tent for warming up, if needed. As a privateer, there are more things you have to organise yourself and don’t have the luxury of just chilling compared to being in a team. The extras of filming, photos and writing were much easier, especially when I was lucky to be part of a team with Anna Buick who is talented with writing and behind the lens. As a Privateer I have limited time. My main aim is to get the course dialled and focus for my race. If I have time and don’t feel stressed I will do some extra stuff like taking pictures of the course or doing some filming. Pre-planning is important so you have less stress closer to race day. I think I am still lucky as a privateer that I still have some support and don’t have to travel alone. If we were not based in Europe and Heiko was not able to come to most races, I don’t think I would have had the chance to race as much as I have.
Pre-race procedures Namibia and South Africa represented. As a privateer, do you find that the other riders are any more supportive or is it all about the racing?
I don’t think it makes a difference with riders whether you are in a team or a privateer. When you’re on the start line it is all about racing and there is not much chit chat.
Your results this year have been good, has anything changed in terms of your training and preparation?
Nothing has really changed with my training, besides being more focused and learning how to suffer more: not just in racing but also when training. I have been happy with my results this year, especially in the beginning. I was hoping to have some better results later this season but I haven’t managed to get them. It has been stressful and trying to juggle things, and has affected some of the races, but the learning experience has been great.
Despite the additional challenges it brings, there must be a relief in not having to please sponsors. What has your experience been in this regard?
It has been a blessing in disguise. I am able to focus on the transition of the move in my own time without other commitments. Even though I haven’t got sponsors to please there are still friends, family and fans that I need to ‘please’. With the move, I seem to have gone into my own bubble and I have been a bit slack with communication/social media. There are a few projects and plans I would like to do but I have somewhat lacked motivation and have been just trying to figure things out without the extra noise. I am trying to find a balance and be more active on social media again since it is still important, especially if I want to find a sponsor/team for next year.
That said, even as a privateer, some level of support is essential. Who has been helping you out this season?
Racing and experiencing more European XCO races would not have been possible without my husband Heiko. He has sacrificed his weekends to come support me, having to put in leave some days to travel earlier.Stephen van der Walt helped me get into racing XCO in South Africa on a competitive level and he still helps out where he can. It is great when he and his son Daniel come to Europe, makes the races feel more like a home away from home. John Wakefield from Science2Sport has made sure I still have the best training and has amazingly worked with my schedule and setbacks to keep me competitive and motivated. Thomas Schroder and the HEAD CICLO XC Team have been really helpful at events, letting me use their tent, rollers and helping out in the feed zone. From when I started working as a professional photographer Thule have helped me with products and it is great having their products when I travel. Pyga helped me out with a bike frame as I wanted to race the Pyga Stage. Squirt not only helps out with products but they arrange accommodation for us at the World Cups that have both DH and XCO. Rush Sports helped me with some Maxxis tyres, as well as Andre van Aarde taking time from his busy schedule to share his knowledge of the industry.
Getting the lines dialled before race day. It has really helped having Heiko going through the course with me. Image by Heiko Redecker What races will you be focussing on for the rest of the year?
I am excited to come back to South Africa and race the XCO Championships. I am excited to race in the colours of Computer Mania who are sponsoring my trip back.For the final preparations for the XCO World Championships in Cairns, I will race the Swiss Bike Cup in Basel and the last World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy. I will race the last two Int. MTB Bundesliga races. Despite being right after the XCO World Championships, these races are important because I would like to keep my series ranking of 2nd and maybe even try to win the overall series.
Being on the podium definitely helps with motivation. Image by Heiko Redecker. Cherie Redecker's Pyga Stage
FramePYGA StageFork2017 RockShox SID World Cup ShockRockShox MonarchStemRitchey WCS CarbonHandlebarRitchey WCS Carbon Trail GripsSilicone GripsSaddleSpecialized Power CompSeatpostRitchey WCS CarbonBrakesSRAM Level UltimateBrake rotorSRAM CenterLine X RotorShiftersSRAM XX1Rear DerailleurSRAM XX1CassetteSRAM XX1ChainSRAM XX1CranksetSRAM XX1 X-Sync Crankset – 170MMChainringSRAM XX1 Direct MountRimsKnight CompositeHubsAivee edition oneFront TyreMaxiss IKON 2.20 3C/EXO/TRRear TyreMaxiss IKON 2.20 3C/EXO/TRBottom BracketSRAM GXPPedalsShimano XTBike Computer / Power meterGarmin 500 / PowerTap G3 Hub