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Ignatius (Inus) du Preez is a member of the Summerplace Game Reserve mountain bike team. With the support of Summerplace and the guidance of his coach, he has transformed from a promising racer into a podium contender at high profile South African XCO and Marathon races. We spoke to him to find out more about his background, his role off the bike at Summerplace and his goals.

When did you first show an interest in mountain biking?

Just before high school I did a range of sports. In Grade 8 – my first year of high school – one of the sports I could do at Hoerskool Garsfontein, was cycling. At the time the Spur MTB Series was big and the school was among the more successful schools in the league. I had got a new bike the year before and I was keen to try something new. I did some Spur Series races, but only off cross-country running and hockey fitness. The vibe at these events was awesome and I think that’s what got me keen on mountain biking.

When was your first MTB race and what event was it?

In Grade 3 I entered a 10km MTB race. I was so excited! But took a wrong turn and ended up doing 30km. It was so tough and I was heartbroken by the finish! Looking back, it certainly helped me cope with something physically hard! My next race was in Grade 7. I had got a new bike and I entered the Windpomp Cherie, a 50km race in Stillbaai, where we normally go in the summer holidays. I did that with my dad. It was extremely hard! After 20km it became super difficult. I hadn’t done any specific training and I really struggled to finish. But every year after that I entered the race and last year (2023) for the first time, I won it. It was always a goal of mine since that first one to try and win it.

Inus during the 2024 Tankwa Trek stage race where he and his teammate, Johan de Villiers, finished eighth overall. | Photo:

Was mountain bike racing a focus for you in your later high school years?

In my final year as a Junior, I started doing some XCO SA Cup races for the first time. Hockey was my main focus though. I did do some training for mountain biking – I trained for one hour twice a week.

When did you start taking mountain bike racing seriously?

I was in Grades 10 and 11 during Covid and there weren’t many races happening. I was first year Junior in Grade 11 and I realised I had a bit of potential and I also enjoyed it, so I started taking it a bit more seriously. I would say in Grade 12 (Matric), when I did all the SA Cups for XCO racing, that was when I started to really begin to focus on mountain bike racing.

Inus on his way to sixth overall at Round 2 of the 2024 Ford Trailseeker Series. Photo: Dominic Barnardt

What made you realise that you could become a successful mountain bike racer?

That’s a tough question. In my final school year, I would train two hours a week for intervals and if I didn’t have hockey on the weekends, I would do some longer rides.  I was never planning to race after school, so I was still racing for enjoyment. In my first year out of school, I started to experience asthma sometimes when racing, so it was an okay year, but not a great year of racing. I was also first year Under-23, which is a challenging time for a racer. I can’t say exactly when I realised I could become a successful mountain bike racer or decided to pursue it fully, but I do know that I wanted to reach my full potential. I still haven’t reached that potential, which is what keeps me motivated.

When did you first start training with a coach?

I started training with a coach in Grade 9. It was with Amrick, which is more group training sessions than personalised coaching. It was always fun because it was with friends and was mostly outrides. My first structured training was during Covid in Grade 10. My coach was Eugene Elliot. He saw my potential in the Spur Series races. He coached me twice a week until the end of my final school yea. In my first year out of school, I moved to Deon Carstens. I appreciate all these coaches who have been such an important part of my mountain biking journey. They have helped me to keep it fun, while improving.

After finishing 18th at Round 1 and sixth at Round 2, Inus has taken the lead in the Elite Men’s division in the Ford Trailseeker Series standings. | Photo: Dominic Barnardt

Who is your current coach and what difference has the coaching made to you?

Deon Carstens is my current coach. He’s my first real professional coach. He’s helped me move into a more serious phase where the hours on the bike have become a lot longer and the training is more specific. It’s great to have someone with his experience to monitor and guide me. It’s a long process to get where you want to be. I still feel I have a lot more improving to do. Deon also been so good in helping me shift my mindset to a serious racing one and helping me maintain my focus on my goals.

What impact has the support from Summerplace Game Reserve had on your progress in the last couple of years?

Everything that I have achieved so far is thanks to Summerplace Game Reserve. First off, the training grounds – I have some of the best mountain bike trails in my back yard! The whole environment is ideal. I can feel safe on my own, encounter wild animals on almost every ride, improve my technical skills and also do long rides. Starting quite late as a mountain bike racer, my technical skills were a weakness, but living and training at Summerplace has turned that into one of my strengths.

Dave and Simone Baber and Paul Rose are among the few people that saw my potential in cycling and have been incredibly supportive. I didn’t really have that many great results, but they saw more than those results and I am so grateful for them their ongoing support. I wouldn’t be where I am now as a mountain bike racer without them.

Inus on his way to fourth place in the Elite & U23 Men’s race at Round 1 of the XCO SA Cup at Thaba Trails. | Photo: Dominic Barnardt

What support do you get from Summerplace as a mountain bike racer?

There are currently three racers in the Summerplace MTB Team – Lilian Baber, Respect Ramashia and myself. Lilian and I have similar racing schedules and she is a great support and always helps me when I need it. Summerplace Game Reserve basically makes everything available so that all I have to do is train and race my best. They give us great quality kit and top-end bikes. They cover all our transport and race entries as well as our travel and accommodation costs. Everything we need as mountain bike racers we get from Summerplace. With cycling being such an expensive sport, it’s essential to have this kind of support to achieve your potential. I am and will forever be grateful to Summerplace Game Reserve for all the support they give me.

You also work at Summerplace, what is your role/job description?

I don’t have a specific job title. It ranges from doing game drives, trails admin, guide rides, skills coaching, helping with the wildlife, driving to get supplies and more. We all help here with what needs to be done.

You have gone from a top 20 finisher to a podium challenger in both top-tier XCO and Marathon races this year. Do you feel you still more improvement you can make?

There is definitely still more room to improve! It’s quite rewarding to start getting some decent results this year. As a cyclist, you are never quite satisfied with what you have achieved, but I am still young and growing into a more complete racer, so I am excited about what is still to come.

Inus raced to an impressive fourth overall at Round 1 of the 2024 XCO SA Cup Series against a strong field. | Photo: Dominic Barnardt

What are your three mountain bike racing career highlights so far?

I would say the first XCO SA Cup I did at Summerplace in my final year of school would be one of them. It was very different to the other races I had done as it was a very technical track against top competitors. Then, I would say doing the Tankwa Trek stage race earlier this year was another highlight so far. It was the first stage race that I have raced hard. It was absolutely amazing. My partner Johan de Villiers and I were actually competing and it was really cool to learn so much about longer distance racing and stage racing.

And then I would say the Val di Sole World Cup in Italy last year. It was amazing to experience. Racing on the same course as the pros that you see on TV. It was fantastic! I really pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do.

And I’m going to sommer give you a fourth highlight – the XCO SA Cup at Thaba Trails this year was an important milestone for me. Being in contention for second place at a SA Cup with all the top racers present was something I could only dream about last year. To make it a reality this year was fantastic.

What are your main goals for the rest of 2024?

The first one is SA Champs in Paarl in early May. I hope to get a good position and will try and challenge for the SA Under-23 title. The next one is to try gain selection for the XCO World Champs this year. And then also the World Cups that we plan to race this year. I would like to improve at those compared to last year.

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