02 Jun, 2015

From Cow charity rider to elite

As a Cow charity rider, Kai Pritzen easily finished the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge in a sub three hour time. Photograph from Kai Pritzen.

After a serious neck injury put paid to a possible career as a motocross rider, 24-year-old Kai Pritzen now aims for his first elite road race win. 

I first met Kai in 2013 when we rode the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge with the Apocalypse Cows in order to raise funds for CHOC.

Kai was 22 at the time. He was new to cycling. Many of the team’s riders were flabbergasted to see Kai’s weekly improvement and he soon moved from the caboose of the peloton to the engine room.

Some of the more seasoned riders provided him with tips on how to improve body position and work on smoother circles. He was a sponge and blew us all away when he mentioned that within a year he would be racing with the Elites.

Kai has a pedigreed sporting background having raced motocross for 11 years. He had numerous wins as a junior including a national championship. In 2007, at the age of 15, Kai moved to Belgium to race for a professional team, leaving behind his family and friends to pursue his dream of becoming motocross world champion.

He was in Belgium for only two months when he was struck by misfortune. Kai was fooling around on his BMX and went over his handlebars breaking his neck in the process. The doctors expected the worst but somehow Kai dodged both death and paralysis. Lady Luck was on his side and he survived.

However, the injury would take him out of racing for over a year and lead to his early retirement from motocross.

Once fully recovered from the accident, Kai put on his dad’s size 11 cycling shoes (Kai is a size nine) and jumped onto his dad’s oversized bicycle and took to cycling. He used insulation tape to keep up his dad’s cycling shorts.

With little training, he attempted the 94.7 Cycle Challenge. He finished and the following year, in 2013, he decided to raise his game and ride the 94.7 for a charity. He selected the Apocalypse Cows and, dressed as MadMax in leather with furry wings, he completed the course in 2:56.

This was the motivation he needed to take cycling seriously and race Elite in 2014.

Kai was quick to learn that racing with the pros and holding down a full day job was tough. He is a lift technician by day and a cyclist by night, waking up on occasion at 02:45 to get in a decent training ride. He trains on the road in the early hours of the morning and on his stationary trainer in the evening.

Without a job, Kai wouldn’t be able to afford his cycling. His greatest challenge remains lack of sleep and not having access to many of the benefits enjoyed by the pros, which include training plans, eating plans, general cycling tips and, of course, rest.

Kai, however, does appreciate that he has a number of motocross skills in his arsenal to assist him in his racing. Motocross taught him to control his fears and to commit fully. Although his skills may technically be better suited to mountain biking, he loves the speed and strategy of road cycling.

To date, his proudest achievement in cycling is finishing sixth overall with the Elites in this year’s Serengeti Road Race. He was involved in the sprint finish for second place, and ended up a mere three seconds off second place.

Kai’s primary goal is to win a professional cycling race in South Africa. And then to find a team to take his cycling career to the next level.

Kai’s insatiable desire to improve and chase his dreams keeps him going. His outlook on life is that in order to achieve success, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. In his case, he has taken the bold leap of faith and sacrificed his sleep in order to achieve his goals.

I asked him where he draws his inspiration from to which Kai replied “I am very self-motivated and draw inspiration from my accomplishments. It’s in my nature, I always want to improve”.

He may not yet be a professional cyclist, however Kai’s total commitment to excellence suggests that his first pro win is not too far off in the future.

Roberto Riccardi

Roberto Riccardi

Journalist |