A South African athlete, Stefan has really made a name for himself in the global racing world. He initially started racing motocross from 1999 to 2009 and has always had a fascination for all things on two wheels. During his motocross years, he managed to secure a Western Province Championship title in his division (2006) as well as achieving second place in a few other races. It being an expensive sport, Stefan could not afford to continue on to National Level.
By 2008 when he finished high school, he went overseas to work and travel through Europe. It was there that he started to pick up the bike again. Even though he has always had a dirt bike and enjoyed playing around on it, he never considered it to be something he would do for a career. In the UK he raced 4X for a season and ended up with a good ranking and secured 6th place overall. By the time he got back to South Africa, he was smitten with the sport but South Africa did not have any 4X races taking place. Instead, he moved on to BMX and downhill racing.
He bought his first downhill bike in 2009 and his success started to grow. He managed to finish 9th overall in the BMX 17-and-over category. His big change in focus came when he secured 5th place in the South African Downhill Championships – and he did so in his very first season. It was clear that downhill was where his career would lead. His hard work paid off and he finished 2nd in the first provincial series race (2011), beating professional Leatt athlete Andrew Neethling, current world number nine, into third. What really motivated him was also the fact that he was only 0.6 seconds slower than the winner, 3-times South African Downhill Champion, Johann Potgieter. Johann and Stefan were the only riders to beat Andrew on home soil in four years. He went on to finish 4th in the African Continental Championships as well as 3rd in the South African Championships. In each of these races, he was once again very close to winning – only 3 seconds slower than the winner, who was once again Andrew Neethling.
Stefan finished 5th in the first event at the UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa but managed to injure himself during practice and was unable to continue. This set his plans back a bit but, after a lot of physio, he managed to go to Europe to race there. “The racing over there is so different and the level of the riders and tracks is so much higher,” says Stefan. During his time in Europe, he secured 2nd place in the German IXS Cup in Illmenau, competing against more than 500 riders. In 2015, he finally qualified for his first World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, and managed to secure 54th place. He also came in at 15th place at the Chatel European ISX Cup, even after breaking his wrist earlier that year.
With just three years of downhill riding experience under the belt, one cannot deny that his success is phenomenal. Stefan lives by the words: “you can do anything if you believe in yourself and put in the hard work.”
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