After missing out on the National Cross Country Championship by just a hair’s breadth last season, the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING team are coming into 2019 all guns blazing…
The first round of the premier series will kick off in Jolivet, KwaZulu-Natal this weekend. Riders will be required to complete five 50km loops that will take them through the forests, sugar cane fields and rocky terrain that Zululand is renowned for.
Taking centre stage is multiple national OR1 champion Kenny Gilbert, who after fighting tooth and nail narrowly finished in second last season.
If Gilbert was ever going to present fierce competition, it will surely be after his Dakar Rally success in 2019. Not only did he storm through the deserts of Peru to conquer the demanding event, but was the first South African across the finish line.
As he prepares for the start of the 2019 season Gilbert commented, “Besides my Rally based goals, I’ll definitely be chasing the National Championship this season. I’m now in the latter years of my career, and I want to win back the red plate that I believe should still be mine! I can’t wait to get out there, Natal really suits my style of riding” said Gilbert.
Adding to the growing excitement in the Husqvarna camp is the return of OR2 rider Taki Bogiages.
After wrapping up the 2018 season with a solid second place, Bogiages was in sesnsational form. Unfortunately, he sustained a major injury during a race in Gauteng and has spent the last four months focusing on an intensive rehab programme.
“I felt like I crashed when I was at my peak and had to start all over again. It’s a massive victory to even take my place at the start line this weekend. I’m going to give this race everything I’ve got and build back up to where I was as the season progresses,” said Bogiages.
When asked whether the OR2 Championship is still his main focus this season, he explained, “It’s been a long-term dream to win a National Championship, and I came so close last season. Going into the year with a setback only makes me even more hungry for that title – although it might take more time and effort than what I initially expected.”
Rounding out the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING team is Master’s rider Iain Pepper.
While Pepper is no stranger to the racing scene, he first became involved with the Cross Country team as a title sponsor. He had initially planned to watch the racing from the pits, but it wasn’t long before he signed up for a spot at the start line.
“After 35 years of not riding a bike, I started racing! I’ve completely surprised myself over the last two years and finished second on the podium last season,” enthused Pepper.
While Pepper is one of the elder statesmen in the team he is regaining the years he lost on the bike by intensifying his training regime and boasts that he could arguably match up to any of the other young guns in the fitness stakes. He steps into the 2019 season as one of the favourites in the Madala’s Class.
Published by: Husqvarna Media
Picture Caption: Kenny Gilbert at the 2018 National Cross Country season opener in Eshowe.
Photography by: www.zcmc.co.za
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