SA track star Cronje looks to the trails

South African middle distance athlete Johan Cronje (centre) took part in the Glacier Cradle Traverse three-day mountain bike race. He was on the podium on Day 1, along with teammate Janus Marais (right). They were congratulated by Johann de Wet, Head of Business Solutions and IT at Glacier by Sanlam. Photo: Oakpics.

South African 1 500m recordholder Johan Cronje made a surprise appearance in the Glacier Cradle Traverse three-day mountain bike stage race in Muldersdrift, and admitted that his track days may be behind him as he looks to a future on the trails.

Johan, who took bronze in the 2013 World Championships, said he may have reached the end of his illustrious international track career, and the beginning of a new career in mountain biking or even trail running.

“I think so,” Johan said at the Avianto Estate after the second stage in the Glacier Cradle Traverse mountain bike event on Saturday, 7 May.

“My coach still wants me to continue training because of the Commonwealth Games early next year. I’ll see how I feel in October and November this year. If I feel the speed is still in the legs then I might consider it, but that’s like a 20 per cent chance. It all depends on this hip of mine.”

Johan had a hip operation early this year and said it had convinced him to consider mountain biking as an alternative sport.

“I needed to find something else because I was struggling with a lot of injuries on the track. My hip operation at the beginning of this year forced me to make the call and see if there is something else out there.”

Johan agreed to partner a friend in the Glacier Cradle Traverse around the Cradle of Humankind, and said he thoroughly enjoyed the more relaxed nature of mountain biking.

“It’s certainly a lot more relaxed than the track, and I enjoy that. Training for the track is very lonely, whereas mountain biking is a lot more social. After a couple of stressful years on the circuit in Europe, this is a nice change.”

And he may well consider taking it more seriously.

“I haven’t made the decision to take it seriously yet. I’m not yet training hard for mountain biking. A friend of mine just asked me to join him on this race and I’ve enjoyed it.

“But if I do get to that point, I know I would have to train every single day, whereas now I maybe ride once or twice a week. I might even get into some trail running as well.

“Running is part of my life so I’ll always still go running in the mornings and then maybe cycle in the afternoons.”

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Janine Viljoen
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