Olympic Mountain Bike – William Mokgopo is on the way to Tokyo 2020

At the age of 13 years old, Mokgopo built his first bike inside a shipping container. Three years later, he was hurtling down the dirt roads of Africa in serious mountain bike competitions. In 2020, he hopes to ride for gold in Tokyo.

William Mokgopo started out riding his uncle’s bike on the rugged streets of Diep loot, a township 40 kilometers north of Johannesburg. Everything changed when a 13-year-old Mokgopo came across a shipping container.

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Mountain Bike – William Mokgopo is on the way to Tokyo 2020 in search of Olympic glory

“My uncle had this old road bike, it was so big, extra-large, and I was so little I would get into the frame and try to peddle on the side.”

At 13 years old, he built his first bike inside a shipping container. Three years later, he was hurtling down the dirt roads of Africa in serious mountain bike competitions. In 2020, he hopes to ride for gold in Tokyo.

“MTB is growing massively. In the future, I think it could be a major sport. It’s coming to schools now and the schools’ series this year had about 10,000 riders. Even if you look at the black communities, it’s growing. Yesterday we went for an 11-hour ride around Johannesburg and there were about 30 black riders.”

They call him the Skinny Hulk. The name fits like a glove. Mokgopo, the South African mountain biker, is tall, thin and pumped up with gutsy determination. At the age of 24, he is already the 12th-ranked mountain biker in South Africa; part of a new generation of cyclists from the streets to race for gold at the UCI MTB World Championships, the African Continental MTB Championships, and the UCI MTB World Cup.

“I think it’s a bit premature to think I will qualify for this year’s Olympics. But the qualifiers are due in May. Even if I make third or second, I still might make it.”

On this early summer morning, Mokgopo, in riding gear, greets with a warm smile outside Number 3080, on a bumpy street in Diep loot. It’s not easy for cars in this street, but an ideal challenge for training on a bike.

Mokgopo lives in a Reconstruction and Development Program house that the government started building for its citizens after the 1994 elections.

“Everyone here used to live in extension one; in shacks. When the houses were allocated, they chose a block of shacks and said those living in shacks from here to here are getting RDP houses. We were given a number and told this was our house. We signed a form, and that was it. I was still at primary school at that time. Before it was the six of us living in the house.”

“The first year that I started getting paid, I extended these other two houses and one in the back here. It was actually just to have a bit of space. It was difficult living together; trying to bath here and trying to do a whole lot of stuff,” he says.

 “It was just up the road from my house. You will see the fencing on the main road. It started with a project called Earn-A-Bike. You would go and choose a bike, then they would strip it down and then you would teach yourself how to build it. Then, when you graduated, that bike that you built would be your own bike,” he says.

Here, Mokgopo came across Simon Nash, Founder of the Diep loot Mountain Bike Academy, and began to race.

“People didn’t take it seriously. When you are riding a bike in Diep loot, it looks like you are just doing it for leisure. You are a grown-up still riding a bike, for my neighbors it was stupid. Soccer is the main sport here, so when you are on a bike people are like what are you doing?”

For Mokgopo it was uphill all the way. His school friends tied strings across the road to bring down his bike. Outside a corner store, a group of men would sit on crates and laugh at him as he rode by.

“It would be very tough getting out the township in your riding gear. I would have to take shorts and the minute I got out of town then take them off and go ride my bike. There were guys who would stop me and ask me stupid questions, like what is this what? What are these pads on your pants; are they for a woman? But now those people who were laughing at me are actually my friends.”

“The other day, I was sitting on the floor at the corner shop and one of the guys came up and said why is The Celebrity, cause that what they call me now, sitting here? One guy said I think even if William has a million and he will still come and sit here. I always want to show that I still want to be at the level they are.”

One reason for Mokgopo’s smile on this day is a new $4,750 bike, tucked away in his room. Along with competing professionally on the Kargo Pro MTB Team, the first UCI-registered MTB Team in South Africa, Mokgopo is a sports sciences student at the University of Pretoria.

“The tricky thing about MTB is getting the points and staying in front. When you do cross country, you need to look at the course. When you are racing it’s a completely different course. Someone might push you off course or the rock you thought you would be jumping from might have moved. It’s always the thought of what’s coming next,” says Mokgopo.

“From our side, William is a one-of-a-kind athlete, he is so complete on and off the bike and many pro athletes can learn from him. The Olympics is very much a reality for William in 2020 and beyond. He is showing improvement every season and also deals with setbacks very well which is a very important aspect for a pro athlete striving to be the best. Making small adjustments to his training regime over the coming seasons will see William gain that consistency that is needed a week in, week out for Olympic level racing,” says Shaun Peschl, Team Manager of Kargo MTB.

Olympic Mountain Bike Tickets
Mountain Bike – William Mokgopo is on the way to Tokyo 2020 in search of Olympic glory

Cycling isn’t cheap. Mokgopo says it can cost around $34,000 a year to race as a professional for travel alone. His team is fortunate to get their bikes and supplements for free. The latest equipment can make all the difference.

“When I started racing, I had a poorly conditioned bike. I remember the academy got me a carbon bike; I could finish second. It just shows from that little change in equipment it can set you moving into that winning stage. It can put you on the podium. The expenses can push people away from the sport. But it depends on the person you are,” Mokgopo says.

 “I will sit with my eyes open and listen to music. People think I am listening, but I am seeing the course and riding it all the time. It’s getting the feel of the race before even getting to the starting line. I see everything how I want it to be in the race. This is where I have to jump. This is where I need to speed up,” says Mokgopo.

He once spent three weeks in bed with a broken shoulder, after he clipped a motorbike while training on a dirt track.

“I couldn’t even control my fingers. I rode one-handed to home in Diepsloot. Overnight it got worse and we had to go to the hospital the next day. But when I went back everything had completely changed. I started coming second and third and ended up winning a race and that was it. I went to bigger races and was introduced to cross country. When you get your first victory that is when the love gets that bit bigger,” he says.

 “When you fall, the blood looks super cool, My mom was skeptical; with all the bruises and stitches I have when I come home. She didn’t want me to do it. She doesn’t say much, but you can see she’s very proud. My dad always says he’s very proud of me,” says Mokgopo.

Mokgopo’s dream of a spot in Rio was ruined when he injured his knee at the Cape Epic in March. It took two months to get back on the bike again.

The injury forced Mokgopo to build a new dream; his plan is now to be the South African champion in 2017, go to the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and to be an Olympic athlete in Tokyo in 2020.

Bumps, bruises, a bike built in a shipping container and friends who used to laugh at him. Mokgopo comes from humble beginnings and hopes to ride his luck all the way to Japan in 2020.

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Mountain Bike Race champion Jolanda Neff gears up for Tokyo 2020

Jolanda Neff a mountain bike racer, cyclocross, and road race champion Neff as she gears up for Tokyo 2020. the Olympic channel’s “Anatomy of” series takes an in-depth look at the physical capabilities of champions in particular sports and analyses them through a range of tests.

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Mountain Bike Race champion
Jolanda Neff gears up for Tokyo 2020

Tokyo Olympic 2020

Jolanda is fairly talented on a two wheels bicycle. At the age of 26, she has enjoyed success in a range of outdoor events on all types of topography. As of early 2019, she is the national champion in mountain biking, road racing, and cyclo-cross.

Born in St Gallen (in the north-east of Switzerland, close to the German and Austrian borders), Neff competed in the road racing and mountain bike competition at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, finishing in the top ten in both– eighth in the previous, on an tarmac surface, and sixth in the later, on hilly, rolling topography. She also has won four world titles to her name – which she won between 2016 and 2018 – in mountain bike marathon, and she is also a three-time International Cycling Union Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup overall champion, having taken gold in 2014, 2015 and 2018.

In the Olympic Channel, Neff is taken to a dedicated performance lab, where her physical capabilities are put under the microscope.

As Professor Greg Whyte Says

An Olympian himself, explains: “cross-country mountain biking, because it’s off-road, the variability in terrain makes a really big difference. So, you get what’s called stochastic power output, and to be able to sustain that for long periods of time for the entire race is really a very difficult thing. Add on top of that operating under pressure with large numbers of riders around you at the same time. There are very unique traits that mountain bikers have in comparison to other forms of cycling. If you take a look at all cyclists to some range, but particularly mountain bikers, they will tend to be very light, very lean, but very strong and very powerful.”

Mountain Bike Race champion Jolanda Neff
Mountain Bike Race champion Jolanda Neff gears up for Tokyo 2020

All of these attributes tally with Neff’s body type, and this was confirmed by hard data through a series of dynamometer tests, measuring quadriceps and hamstring strength and ability to maintain the effort for repetition after repetition; a body scan to analyze muscle/body mass ratio and skin-fold measure tests. Neff was also positioned in a chamber in which she was made to pedal on a Watt bike in tailored race conditions, with a temperature of 31°C, humidity levels of 80 percent and punishing climbs, to assess her fluid replacement capability.    

She also underwent a peak power test to analyze how well her body could respond to situations in which maximum power output was required, such as the uphill sections in cycling races.

“What we’re looking for is how much power Jolanda can produce, and then looking at how she can sustain that power output. something we call the fatigue index” explained Professor Whyte.

Neff obtained outstanding results in all the tests, which led Professor Whyte to describe her as one of the truly elite athletes in the world – a blend of strength, speed, power and stamina packed into a lean body.

“My body learns really fast,” says Neff. “If I do something, my muscles adapt immediately. My lungs, my legs, everything. When there is an impact, there is a reaction. There’s this saying – ‘train hard, win easy’. I love hard work. It’s just an amazing feeling, and once you’re in that zone, you don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Her international season this year in mountain biking and cyclo-cross could take her all the way to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where we are likely to be hearing a lot more about her.

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Mathieu Van Der Poel Wish to Go over a Grand Tour after Tokyo Olympic 2020

Amstel Gold Model winner Mathieu van der Poel has said he really wants to ride a Grand Tour, making hints that he could ride one of the three-stage races soon after competing in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Olympic Mountain Bike Fans from all over the world can book summer Olympic Mountain Bike Tickets online from one of the most trusted online ticketing market places.

Mathieu already decided to go Tokyo after coming second in the UCI mountain bike World Cup in Germany

After escaping from his spring Classics season, people are already asking the young Dutchman what his race calendar next year will look like, the 24-year-old saying that Paris-Roubaix will be added to the races he plans to ride.

Van der Poel won Dwars door Vlaanderen, De Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race in 2019, having only raced one of the spring Monuments, the Tour of Flanders, where he finished fourth. The Corendon-Circus rider will therefore try and add a Monument to his already impressive palmarès, having won one national road race championship as well as two cyclocross World Championships.

“My Classics program will look about the same as it is now, only Paris-Roubaix is added,” Van der Poel told Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “The combination with the Amstel Gold Race is not simple, but I want to try it.”

Van der Poel will also look to add an Olympic title to his list of career achievements, having now officially won a place at the 2020 Games in Tokyo after coming second in the World Cup mountain biking in Albstadt over the weekend, after accruing enough UCI points.

Mathieu Van Der Poel
Mathieu Van Der Poel Wish to Go over a Grand Tour after Tokyo Olympic 2020

Although his sights will be set on victory in Japan, Van der Poel can’t help but look to future opportunities after the Olympics, specifically riding a Grand Tour.

“I really want to ride for once,” Van der Poel said, apparently grinning. “When? It might come soon after Tokyo.”

The Dutchman has three Grand Tours to choose between, with the Vuelta an España following directly after the Tokyo Olympics, with 2021’s Giro d’Italia or Tour de France most likely showing a more truthful prospect, even if the 2020 Vuelta starts in his homeland’s city of Utrecht and then spends the next three days in the Netherlands.

“The Tour de France remains the largest and for me the easiest I think,” said Van der Poel. “In the Giro and Vuelta there is even more climbing and that is the least appealing to me now.”


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