Team South Africa will be represented on the mountain bike course at Rio by two of the most exciting young prospects in South African cycling, James Reid and Alan Hatherly.

There is little doubt the 23-year-old Reid and his 20-year-old teammate are unlikely to be anywhere near the sharp end of the cross country race, and a medal from either of them would probably be the biggest surprise of the Games.

But, both are young enough to be using their first Olympic experience as a foundation for greater things in the future, and they certainly have the talent to make an impact in future years.

There has been a minor debate as to whether Philip Buys should not have been one of the two South African team members on the mountain bike squad.

Buys has produced results that are close enough to warrant an objection to his exclusion from Team South Africa, but, according to the Cycling South Africa selection criteria, Buys is clearly, but only marginally, the weaker of the three.

The team was selected strictly according to the published criteria which leaves little room for debate. However, with the three all being so close in terms of their results over the past year, had the choice been a selectors debate, then decision to build for the future with Reid and Hatherly would probably still have been the correct one.

There can be little dispute over Reid’s selection. Last weekend the former KZN schoolboy who now bases himself in the Western Cape, was sublime in coming from behind in a suprememly controlled race to overtake and beat Buys into second position at the South African Championships.

For Buys, his cramp-enforced slowing down over the final circuit of Saturday’s seven-lap race must have been frustrating. He admitted afterwards that he started too hard and there is little doubt that was a result of the announcement two days earlier that he was excluded from the Olympic team.

For Hatherly the race was one to forget, and his lowly seventh position – probably his worst result of the year – is no reflection of his ability. His consistency over the past 18 months has belied his young age and in just about all the selection events he has beaten at least one of his two fellow Olympic hopefuls.

Buys will be the non-travelling reserve for the team.

While Reid and Hatherly will be fighting for glory on the Deodoro Olympic Park track, the presence of two other South Africans will be noticeable.

Firstly, every South African mountain biking enthusiast will no doubt think back to the 2012 London Olympics where Burry Stander became a household name in this country as he raced to fifth overall, before being killed in a tragic accident a few months later.

And then there is Nick Floros.

“Nick who?” you may well ask. He was not named in the MTB team, or even announced as one of the many support staff. In fact he is almost unknown outside the mountain biking community, but is possibly the most important person at the Deodoro Olympic Park on August 20 and 21.

Floros, who lives in Pietermaritzburg, has designed and been in charge of the construction of the Olympic course and it seems as if he has done the South African MTB community proud. After the official test event last year, the course was described as “a rip-roaring success … with the world’s leading riders lining up to sing the course’s praises.”

Independent Media