Merensky High School old boy, Alan Gordon, class of 2009, recently joined the ambassador programme (Mountain Biking) of Team Navworld, one of the fastest growing lifestyle, outdoor and adventure partners in South Africa.
Gordon started his cycling career in 2005 as a road cyclist but his love for nature lured him to the single track and in 2012 he bought his first mountain bike. After completing a few races, Gordon was hooked. As a native to Tzaneen, Gordon is no stranger to the beautiful scenery that South African mountain bikers enjoy.
He describes the “vibe” in the mountain biking community as “vastly different” to what he was used to and he says the bug bit him hard. But it was not until 2014 that Gordon converted to mountain biking full time. Impressively, in the same year, Gordon won the solo-men category in the 2014 Sabi Experience race. He also came 3rd in the Cape Pioneer Trek, an impressive feat for this newcomer to mountain biking.
In an interview with Navworld, Gordon had the following to say:
Alan, how did you get into cycling?
From an early age, all I ever wanted to do was ride my bike around with my friends. You can tell I really enjoyed it, because I never stopped! Tzaneen isn’t big. When I started out I knew nothing about racing, there was no-one to help me and I just did my own thing. Then, when I was 12, I entered my first local race. It was 45 km and I was hooked. At 15 I entered my first big race, the 94.7 Challenge – that’s when I decided to make cycling my career.
Where would you say you stand on the SA sports scene?
It’s difficult to say. If you take ultra marathons, I’m normally in the top 10-15 in the country.
What is it that draws you to ultra-distance mountain bike racing?
It’s just so much more challenging. It’s not like road cycling were you travel in a pack, and teamwork and strategy get you across the line. Mountain biking is more self-reliant. Basically, you’re on your own; your end results are determined by your own strength and stamina.
How much training do you put in per week?
I train six days per week, putting in about 350 km on my bike. I also workout in the gym and get some running in every afternoon. On my off days, I just try to stay off my feet and chill as much as possible to let my muscles recover.
How do you prepare for upcoming events?
Two weeks before a race I start tapping off my training. Then, in the last week, I only concentrate on recovery rides and getting my head right for the event. There’s no use cramming, you can’t get any fitter than you already are!
Do you ever take time off to chill after a race?
Laughs. Never, there’s always the next race to prepare for. I make sure I take two 2-week holidays per year were I can take things easy. That’s when I leave my bike at home and concentrate on other outdoor activities such as walking on the beach, swimming and hiking. Whatever I do though, I always make sure I remain active.
What do you do when not riding your bike?
Eight months ago I started my cycling shop, Tzaneen Cycle Cafe, and running it keeps me pretty busy during the day when I’m not riding. Generally speaking, I’m an outdoors kind of guy and enjoy spending as much time out in the bush as I can. Recently, I started off-road running too.
What are your goals for 2017?
This year, my main focus is on making my shop a success, so I don’t intend travelling as much as I have in the past. Because of this, I’ll be concentrating on weekend races that allow me to work during the week. That said, I’ll still be entering 4-5 stage races, just not as many as last year.
Will you ever leave Tzaneen?
No ways, I’ll never move from here, it’s a beautiful place to live and so close to nature. As a cyclist, I just have to get on my bike, turn a corner or two and I’m in the mountains – just the way I like it!
Courtesy of Navworld (www.navworld.co.za)