Team Abantu's Morné van Niekerk Shares More from France

team abantu, morne van niekerk

Team Abantu’s promising star and U23 SA Time Trial champion Morne van Niekerk is currently cycling in the French amateur ranks gaining some valuable racing experience. He is embracing the hardships of serving his time on the Euro scene. He shares some of his experiences here:

Life off the bike
Life off the bike, I am very happy to say, is amazing. My morale is high again, my confidence is picking up as well, my motivation is as high as ever and I’m really enjoying myself having pulled through a tough first phase of the campaign. Jeff is great and I’m trying to learn as much as possible from him. I also enjoy when he talks cycling, current riders and history. One thing is for sure my passion for the sport never left and I think that was one of the things also helping me through the tough first part. Angers is great. Everything is here and there’s life going on around me. I’m not one for doing things after training, but it’s nice to know I can and that if I need something it’s less than 10 minutes away by foot.

The training roads are awesome, the scenery is stunning, it’s rich with history and it feels like home. I am loving riding my bike. A bit like a kid. I can’t wait to go ride and I have to force myself to come home and not ride more. It feels like I can spend the whole day on my bike. And I want to. It’s such a great feeling. And I am also extremely excited to go race again, instead of fearing the racing and that I might not finish, I can’t wait to go race now. I am really getting in the experience I was hoping for.

The Racing

Challenge Mayennais, 1-3 August
Stage 1, Montsurs
Legs for the first time in 2 weeks did not feel completely useless and I managed to get into the 15 man break. It was a hard route with quite a few drags and a very steep hard hill in the middle of the 8km lap. I rode above what my legs were actually feeling like and managed to hang-on on the climb with all the attacks that started 3 laps to go. Eventually I found myself in the decisive 5-man split after I dug very deep with 2 laps to go to cross over to the front. I was then caught out about 3km to go by the attack of two team mates and the other riders were looking at me to bring it back. Just didn’t have enough to get back on the wheel which is kind of disappointing since I was feeling confident in my sprint. In the end i settled for 4th.

Stage 2, Saint-Germain-d’Anxure
Terrible day on the bike. It was insanely hot and just one of those days where you are pushing yourself just to finish. I was a bit too active in the first 20km hoping my legs would loosen up, but they didn’t. And then the laps changed and we started doing a shorter lap with a very hard climb, or maybe I was just so stuffed already that the climb felt even harder. I finished, but it was so hard. To feel that the day before you maybe getting better again and then you get beaten up proper like that. It’s hard but part of racing and the reason I’m here – To harden up !

Stage 3, Fougerolles
After the past two days I felt really tired. Didn’t sleep well. Just went into the race wanting to enjoy the experience. The race followed the same structure as the day before. Six of 12km big laps and 10 small laps of 4km with the smaller lap being the hardest with two hard hills, one being the finish. My legs actually had a bit of sensation today which was nice and I really enjoyed the race. Took it all in on another hot day and had fun. In the end I finished the series/tour 16th overall.

Route d’or du Poitou, 5 August
This was another insanely hot day. The course was also super hard, being exposed to the wind and a very steep hill 1km from the finish. After reassessing my goals and my current state I went out for the experience and to enjoy racing my bike. And I achieved just that. I really had fun and I even had better legs than the weekend. I punctured 20km in, got a wheel from the Japanese National U23 team and they paced me back. By then the race got split with all the favourites up the road. I had to make a move and went solo after attacking through the technical part of the course. And after a good 15-20min or so of effort I got across to the front. With two laps to go the big favourites attacked on the climb and I just couldn’t go with. So I was stuck in a middle group. Eventually I managed to ride away from them through the technical part after none of them wanted to commit to the chasing. In the end I finished 19th.

Final Opportunity
I’m now in the last two weeks here for me and I am still hoping and going for a good result. Thank you everyone for all the support and messages throughout this stint. I really appreciate it.