Athlone rider back in the saddle

Seraj Abrahams, from Penlyn Estate, goes through his paces at the UCT cross-country track, at Rhodes Memorial.

With all sporting activity grinding to a halt earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was going to be a while before mountain bike enthusiast Seraj Abrahams, 29, from Penlyn Estate would get back in the saddle.

He wasted no time slipping his feet into his cleats and jumping on his bike in September when a resumption of training and exercise was allowed, in terms of the government’s lockdown protocols.

Although the SA cross-country mountain bike (MTB) championships in Stellenbosch, at the weekend, was the first of the big mountain bike events since the lockdown kicked in in March, this year, Abrahams played it cool and kept his focus and goals realistic, considering the limited time to prepare for a major competition.

Although he did not finish on the podium, Abrahams said he’s happy with his overall performance. “It went okay, I was consistent throughout the race and managed to sneak in to the top ten” said Abrahams, when asked how his race went. Over the past few weeks he spent as many hours as he could in the Boland town to get as much mileage on his bike as he could.

While mountain biking remains his preferred discipline, Abrahams is also an avid road cyclist and has now set his sight on the upcoming Double Century race, in Swellendam, in two weeks.

One of three bike-loving sibling, Abrahams said he started out riding like any youngster, just happy to be on his bike after discovering the joy of pushing pedal.

“A neighbour actually got myself and my brother into riding, borrowing us bikes and we’re hitting the trails in Tokai. That’s where the journey started,” he said.

“It was just a Saurday Sunday morning ride but the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. That’s when I got more involved, started entering a few races and as I went along, I started to become a little more competitive. Afterwards I realised, this just might be my thing,” he said.

Although not a full-time professional, Abrahams has a strict training routine that involves the help of a dedicated coach to assist him with physical and mental preparation.

With 2020 being what it was, it was particularly challenging to remain focused and motivated.

“Over the last four years, I’ve been taking things slightly more competitively, trying to push the boundaries a bit, racing against the clock, as the they say. I’ve really enjoyed it, it brought a different dimension to the sport and trying to make the most of the little time I have available. It’s been a blissful journey so far,” he said.

Along the way, he earned a few accolades, often finishing in the top 10 and produced four consecutive sub-3hr finishes in the then Cape Argus/Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.

“A few years ago my brother, Rameez and I entered a small race in Ceres and we actually managed to get on the podium there, he said,” recalling one of his first notable achievements.

“Next year I’ll be in the sub-veteran category, so I’ve got some big plans for 2021 and that’s why I’m putting in the miles now,” he said.

But if there’s one thing the year has taught us, he added, it’s that there are no guarantees for plans made.

“2020, what an interesting year. Started off well, I did pretty well in a few races, everything was building up quite nicely to the Cape Epic in March which was unfortunately cancelled on the last second because of the pandemic. During the lockdown I was very demotivated. I tried to stay in shape as best as possible but very little activity on the bike. We started training at full tilt at the beginning of September, it’s been just over two months now and going very well,” he said.

“We sort of gearing up for the end of the year, going in to next year. For now, the focus is mainly on 2021, the goal is to try to compete as best as possible, try to finish well,” he said.