Brandon Stewart, one of South Africa’s most successful professional mountain bike racers, begins a new phase of his career on Friday when he starts the nine-day Fairbairn Capital Old Mutual joBerg2c stage race.
Stewart’s final race for the DCM team was the UCI World Cup, which took place in Pietermaritzburg last weekend. He spent three years with the DCM outfit, but has elected to leave the team in order to grow his career further.
His first step will be to try and win the joBerg2c with his former DCM teammate and South African road cycling champion, Darren Lill, as the FedGroup Berg and Bush team.
Over the past few years, Stewart has become a stage race specialist and is the only South African to have won stages at the ABSA Cape Epic in South Africa, the TransAlp in Europe and the BC Bike Race in Canada.
“I’ve actually always enjoyed cross-country racing, and achieved one of my career goals when I won the Elite men’s South African cross-country title in 2008. But my strengths definitely seem to be lie more marathons and stage races,” said Stewart.
“I’ve had a very successful three years with DCM and appreciate all the support and opportunities I was given there. I’m now 29 and still have a good few years of professional racing left and I believe a new environment will help me achieve my remaining potential.”
Stewart hasn’t finalised any new sponsorships yet, but says that he has had discussions with some potential new sponsors.
“It’s a bit of a risk just leaving one team without having finalised a new team, but I’m confident I will secure sponsors soon. Mountain bike racing gets exceptional media coverage in South Africa, especially on television and it’s the ideal platform for companies looking to introduce their brand, products or services to the mountain biking and cycling communities,” explained Stewart.
Stewart is one of a handful of riders to have completed all eight ABSA Cape Epics so far, making him one of the most experienced mountain bike stage racers in the world. He says he’ll be using that experience in his first attempt at the joBerg2c.
“Darren won the Tour de Boland road stage race a few weeks ago and is a superb allround cyclist with years of international road stage racing experience. However, his mountain bike racing experience is very limited so I’m going to mentor him on the more tricky terrain at joBerg2c.
“Ideally, we’d want to try and challenge for the lead early on when the terrain isn’t quite so rough and try and limit our losses where necessary later on. But this is mountain biking, one of the most unpredictable of sports, so we’ll just take each day at a time and make sure we’re in the mix at the front and ensure that FedGroup financial services, our sponsor for the event, gets optimal exposure.”
Brandon Stewart career highlights
• South African Elite men’s cross-country champion 2008
• Three-time overall winner (with Max Knox) Sabie Experience stage race
• Two-time stage winner (with Shan Wilson) Cape Epic stage race
• Two-time winner of African leader jersey (2007 and 2010) Cape Epic stage race
• Stage winner and third overall (with Kevin Evans) TransAlpe stage race 2007
• Two-time stage winner and second overall (with Max Knox) BC Bike Race stage race 2010
• Multiple stage wins and overall winner (with various partners) Sani2c stage race
• Multiple stage wins and two-time overall winner (with Max Knox) Isuzu 3 Towers stage race
• Multiple KwaZulu-Natal and national marathon victories