Former champion Waylon Woolcock has put competitive racing behind him, but is looking forward to renewing a special association with the Liberty Winelands Encounter this weekend.
The annual mountain-bike race through the scenic trails around Franschhoek and Paarl in the Cape Winelands will take place from Friday to Sunday.
In partnership with HB Kruger, Woolcock took the honours in 2017 and will be returning to race this time with the 19-year-old Hennie Roux, a young colleague he has been mentoring for the past two years.
The 36-year-old Woolcock started his career more than two decades ago as a road-cycling professional, earning his South African colours, before becoming one of the country’s best mountain-bikers.
Now his focus is more on helping others and he is relishing the chance of helping to develop Roux’s talent in one of the classic three-stage races in the country.
“I have been coaching Hennie since 2017 and he has always been bugging me about doing an event with him,” explained Woolcock.
“Fortunately, these dates fit in with my working calendar and we were able to take up this opportunity.”
The ex-pro said he still kept fit via numerous rides in the Stellenbosch region and the Winelands Encounter would be ideal to further develop Roux’s mountain-biking career.
“Hennie [also from Stellenbosch] is definitely a promising young rider who started his mountain-biking career relatively late,” said Woolcock. “But he is a really hard worker and his dedication is second to none.
“So this is a great chance to expose him to one of the iconic mountain-bike races. He’s pretty strong and I just hope I don’t get schooled during the event.”
Although he added that they had not set themselves any specific goals going into the weekend, Woolcock said he was sure their competitive instincts would kick in once the racing started.
“Definitely my mind will be there to compete, but I am not sure if my body will agree with that,” he joked. “Purely from a lifestyle point of view I have been doing some training.
“I am not quite sure how it will pan out this weekend, but we are very much looking forward to the experience.”
Woolcock added that he would recommend to all mountain-bikers that they test themselves in the Winelands Encounter.
“The type of routes you are exposed to in the Franschhoek and Boschendal regions are really great trails and also open to the public.
“This means that most of them are not on private land and it provides you with a chance to go back again and again to experience the variety of routes on offer.”
The Winelands Encounter will be raced over 146km, starting at Boschendal and finishing at the Nederburg Wine Estate in Paarl on Sunday.