Sports & Fitness

Going Places

Going Places

White River’s Zandri Strydom is flying high after a string of spectacular wins on the mountain-biking circuit, including a first in the South African Cup’s youth category earlier this year. Get it speaks to her about her training, successes and plans for the future.

Give us a bit of background.
I was born in Mbombela in August 2001 and grew up here. I went to Laerskool Nelspruit and was then homeschooled until 2015. In 2016 I started attending Hoërskool Rob Ferreira.

Do you come from a “sporty” family?
I would say so, yes. My mom used to be a very good short-distance runner and long jumper and my dad was a marathon runner and still cycles. We do a bit of rock climbing when we get a chance, but mountain biking is my main sport and between training and a full calendar there is not much chance to do anything else.

How did you become interested in mountain biking?

My brother and I have always enjoyed riding our bicycles, and as we live on a farm, mountain bikes are the obvious choice. A friend introduced us to the cross-country circuit and I absolutely fell in love with it. I started racing in 2015.

What does your training involve?

I have a coach who is tasked with keeping me fit, as well as my long-term development. I am very lucky to have a second unofficial coach who helps with the technical aspects.
I train six days a week, which involves speed training, strength training, long-distance riding and technical training on the bike as well as gym in-between. Foodwise, I try to keep it healthy and balanced and stay away from refined foods.

Where do you train?
I mostly train around and on the farm where we stay, as well as routes and trails like Mankele MTB Park, the routes at Hectorspruit, White River and Sabie, all of them excellent. Although I do some road training, I try and keep off tar roads if I can, as motorists are inconsiderate to cyclists, which makes it dangerous. My gym training is done at LowMed in Mbombela.

Are you thinking of doing this full-time as a career?
I would love to make cycling a full-time career as this is my passion, but this will mean that I will have to go overseas. I also realise that I will have to have something to fall back on, so I will further my studies after school in a sport-related field, but have not made up my mind exactly as to what yet.

Do you have your family’s support?
Definitely, there is no question about this. I know this costs them a lot and they have to make sacrifices for me. They drive me across the country making sure I get where I need to go, be it for training or races, they make sure my bike is in top condition. They are my greatest partners in this.

How time-consuming is riding?
It takes up a lot of my time, especially on weekends as I am either racing or training. It is on weekends that I do my long rides up to three hours, on the days that I am not racing, but I do not mind this as I love riding my bike.
I like listening to music, horse riding with my brother or chilling with my friends, but yes, most of my free time is spent on my bike.

What is it that attracts you to mountain biking?
I think the challenges it poses, as courses can be technical and formidable. You get to ride in some of the most awesome places, it’s an adventure and most importantly, the fun factor is way up there!

Who should get involved?
Anyone or everyone (especially kids) who has a little sense of adventure or just wants to get out and keep fit. Mountain biking is a fun way to keep fit and you can do it as a family.
You don’t need to do all the crazy stuff as you can have an enjoyable ride with friends or family and enjoy nature. Young children need to get involved and the Spur Schools Series is currently a good place to start. All you need to take part is whatever bike and helmet you have. It’s fun and chilled.

It’s quite an expensive sport. Have you had support from local sponsors?
Yes, when you start racing seriously it becomes very expensive, but getting a sponsor at a young age is nearly impossible. I have been incredibly lucky, as Valencia in Mbombela helps and supports me – great guys those. I am very fortunate as I recently received a sponsorship from Laeveld Trekkers, Dirk Lourens Cycles and Merida SA which I am very thankful for.

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