Officially Switzerland’s former double world champion, Christoph Sauser, is on holiday and he will, therefore, ride the six-day DCM Cape Pioneer Tour that starts on Monday (18 October) for the sheer joy of it.
But South Africa’s top mountain bikers would be naive to believe that Sauser will merely be a fun rider during the six days of the tour.
Even if Sauser should decide to put in just a 70% to 80% effort, it would in all possibility be enough to give him a realistic chance to finish on the podium.
During last year’s tour Sauser grew noticeably stronger and more motivated as the tour progressed. This led to a last stage victory for him and Bobby Behan. They were also second in the third stage. Overall they finished fourth.
It is interesting to note that Sauser and Silvio Bundi will again be teammates this year. South African mountain biking fanatics will remember that Sauser and Bundi won the 2006 Cape Epic.
South African cycling fans should actually try to watch Sauser racing because he is one of the true mountain biking legends.
There are not many riders who can boast that they have won both the World Cross-country (2008) and World Marathon (2007) titles. He also won a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, as well as 14 World Cup races. As far as second and third place finishes in important international events are concerned, his CV is also impressive.
According to Sauser riding last year’s DCM Cape Pioneer was a definite highlight.
“South Africa hosts many mountain bike stage races and the Cape Pioneer was such a relaxed event over six days in the Klein Karoo. The comradeship was awesome, and we had so much to laugh and joke about. The fact that some of the stages were long, windy and rocky, made the rest of the time even better. The race was superbly organized by Dryland, who created a pleasant family atmosphere,” Sauser wrote on his website.
The story of how he became involved in mountain biking is also interesting.
“I grew up in a sports oriented family. From a young age I received much support and encouragement to participate in many different sports. Some of my favourite sports when I was young were: roller hockey, skiing, football and wrestling.
“As a child I frequently rode on my bike, but only back and forth to school. For me the bike was a mode of transport and not really for pleasure. But I always appreciated my bicycle as an efficient and independent form of transport.
“When I saw a mountain bike the first time I became very excited as I could see the big potential of riding off-road and having fun on the technical downhills. Before bikes came out with the triple chainring, climbing the steep trails to get to the top of the very fast downhills would have been impossible.
“Since I had a long history in competitive sports it was natural for me to wonder what it would be like to race on a mountain bike. In 1991 I found some information on a big mountain bike race in Switzerland called the Grand raid Cristalp. It looked as if it would be a fun event for my first mountain-bike competition. That race was a beautiful ride in the alps with many competitors and for me that was a great experience. So I was excited to race a few more races in 1991 and 1992.
“One night in a bar a friend of mine challenged me to apply for a racing license, and he even offered to find me a team to ride for. I started the 1993 season as a member of the Parkpre team. It had just started that year and was perfectly managed. I raced for the Parkpre team during the first five years of my career.
“In 1998 a big dream came true when I signed my first contract with an international team, Diamondback. That year was also the first time I stepped onto a world cup podium. I won the U23 Euro Champs, and also finished second at the World Cup in the same category. I was very happy with my position on the team, but unfortunately the sponsorship situation for the next season was a little bit cloudy.
“Luckily for me, I had an offer from the number one team in the world, with the name of Volvo-Cannondale, at the end of the season. This of course was something I was very excited about and I had four great years on this team until 2003.
“At that time Volvo pulled out of MTB racing, but with Siemens-Cannondale I found another great team for the following 3 years, which was controlled by a completely different management. Only the bike was more or less the same.
“Now I am going into the 4th year with Specialized Factory Racing team. We are a bunch of great people with the focus on racing and professionalism, but also having lots of good fun. With Specialized being such an innovative company, we have the very best brand in our hands for winning races and being well promoted. We are Specialized!”