18 May, 2016

The Champ is Here

Continuing our regular Q&A getting to grips with cycling personalities, this month we chat to South African National Road Champion and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider, Jaco Venter, who is living the dream as he rides in the Spring Classics in Europe.
MC: Tell us about your biggest achievement as a competitive cyclist.
JV: Winning the National Road Champs this year, that was a good feeling.
MC: What race is your absolute favourite, and why?
JV: Milan-San Remo. I’ve always had terrible weather there, but it’s just such a special race. It’s 295km and it’s one of the biggest one-day races in the world.
MC: Who taught you to ride a bike?
JV: My dad and uncle were riding bikes before I was even born, so I guess it was them. I don’t remember my first ride, but I do remember my first road bike.
MC: What is your favourite cycling memory growing up?
JV: I think it has to be from my younger days when I rode cross-country mountain bikes all over the country. It was always a big family trip and everyone got involved.
MC: When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in cycling?
JV: I loved it from the beginning, but when I was 16 or 17, that’s when I really decided that I’m going to give it everything.
MC: Has road cycling always been your passion, or did you consider pursuing mountain biking?
JV: I actually started with mountain biking and I still ride mountain bikes as much as I can. I’ve also done two Absa Cape Epic’s and would like to ride it again after my road career.
MC: Who is Jaco when he is not cycling?
JV: When I’m not cycling, I’m mostly just a relaxed person, spending time with my wife, family or friends.
MC: What’s the hardest thing about being a pro rider?
JV: For me it’s all the travelling we have to do. The team always tries to make it as easy as possible, but you still spend a lot of time in airports.
MC: When you have those down and out moments on the bike, what gets you through?
JV: In professional cycling you have a lot of ups and downs, and you just have to take it and keep going, and know that it will get better.
MC: Tell us about being selected to ride for the Dimension Data team.
JV: It’s a privilege to ride for a South African World Tour team, we have great sponsors and teammates, and I’m very happy to be here.
MC: Do you think South Africa has the potential to produce more top elite cyclists?
JV: We definitely have the potential to produce more top elite riders, we already have a few very talented U/23 riders coming up through the ranks.
MC: What is it like competing overseas?
JV: Its very different to SA racing. Firstly, its double the distance, mostly small roads, bad weather sometimes, and the speed is really high as well. So the combination of all these things makes it really difficult.
MC: What was the best part of the Vuelta a Espana Tour?
JV: Stage 12, when I was in a breakaway and we were caught with only a few hundred metres to go. And also when Kristian Sbaragli won stage 10.
MC: Describe the feeling of winning SA Road Champs.
JV: It was really unexpected. I went into the race with good form, but knew I wasn’t the favourite, so it would be hard to win. It was a great feeling to cross the line first, now I get to wear the jersey all year long in Europe.
MC: Who would you regard as your mentor and why?
JV: I won’t say that I have a mentor, but I’ve had a lot of people that helped me get to where I am today, and I’m really grateful for that.
MC: How do you prepare for big races – what is your training focus?
JV: It is just important to know what period of the season you want to peak in and train hard for that, it normally takes a few months to get ready for big races.
MC: Any advice for those who have just started riding?
JV: Just enjoy it, the rest will come.
MC: What is your favourite quote?
JV: Bly net kalm.