When veteran roadie and mountain biker Waylon Woolcock won this year’s Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek alongside Erik Kleinhans, he demonstrated the kind of hard-working dependability that has made him a regular fixture on the national podium.
Although he and Kleinhans failed to win any stages, the experienced duo snared the overall victory by an almost 10-minute margin.
“We had a plan to win overall by racing conservatively and consistently and it paid off,” says Woolcock.
“The Cape Pioneer was a big focus for me all year, along with the MTN Crater Cruise,” he says of his two recent wins.
“The last time I had such good form was at joBerg2c and the Nedbank sani2c earlier this year.”
It therefore came as a surprise to many, including Woolcock himself, that Team RE:CM opted not to renew his contract for next season.
“It’s sad to say that I was surprised that I didn’t have my contract renewed, especially after all the hard work I’ve put into team over the past three years, not to mention the results and coverage I achieved.
“It’s not always about results but being a good brand ambassador which I feel I was.”
But, Woolcock believes, everything happens for a reason.
“I’m currently in search of a new team or sponsor to create a new team. First prize would be to create a new one – this country needs many more professional teams.”
However, he says, the battle to secure title sponsorship remains a seemingly insurmountable hurdle that many would-be pro outfits face.
“It’s been quite moving for me to have so many people come and offer their help and advice. It’s not easy in these tough financial times to get companies to invest in professional teams.”
The 31-year-old reckons he still has at least another five good years of competitive racing in the tank.
“I’ve looked after my body pretty well over the years, so as long as my head wants to, my body should follow.”
Stellenbosch-based Woolcock says his last race for his current team will be the FNB Wines2Whales stage race.
“I’ll be partnering up with Erik again. To win our own ‘backyard’ race would be pretty cool.”
A win there would also be a fitting end to a season that included victories in the RE:CM Knysna 200 and Tankwa Trek, as well as podium finishes in the Old Mutual joBerg2c and MTN Tulbagh races.
Woolcock, who joined his first road outfit (Omega) as a fresh-faced 19-year-old, says the countless road tours he completed taught him invaluable lessons for the multi-stage events that would later form the backbone of his mountain biking career.
He lists winning the seven-day Tour of Egypt by a single second, and taking the runner-up spot plus the King of the Mountains and Best Young Rider jerseys in the Tour de Eden as his biggest road successes.
The former Bestmed Jock Cycle Classic winner says local road racing eventually got a bit boring and he crossed over to mountain biking in 2011.
“As a non-sprinter in this country, you’re very limited in terms of races that suit your strengths. Most of the time I ended up having to be a domestique to someone who could sprint better.
“With mountain biking that isn’t the case – it suits my strengths. It’s cool to have butterflies in the belly on the start line knowing you have a chance to win!”
And win he has, counting his Crater Cruise, joBerg2c and Cape Pioneer victories as the highlights of his off-road career.
Having studied at the feet of well-known roadies like Gary Beneke, Martin Saunders and coach Bosseau Boshoff as a youngster, Woolcock in turn relished his opportunity to mentor rising mountain bike star and RE:CM teammate Lourens Luus this year.
“Lourens has all the talent a rider could wish to have – it was just a case of harnessing and directing it.
“Although my mentoring role may have gone unnoticed by some, I get great satisfaction knowing I had something to do with the youngster’s improvements.”
As far as his own goals are concerned, Woolcock still has his sights set on the African jersey at the Cape Epic and a solid performance at next year’s world championships.
Given the chance to do it all again, he says there is only one thing he would do differently.
“I would have started mountain biking earlier!”
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