The rise and rise of Kai von During

Jazz Kuschke catches up with the talented Kai von During who has been owning the podiums in various disciplines this year and most recently taking the win in the Junior division at SA XCM Champs.

| INTERVIEW: Jazz Kuschke |

The rise and rise of Kai von During

You’re still in school, how do you manage to balance training and studies? Balancing school is a challenge but it keeps me on my toes and always stimulated both mentally and physically. I have an afternoon training routine between 4pm and 6pm after school and fit in my longer rides on the weekends. A typical training week during school term is about 15 hours, although this is reduced in a race week.

How about the indoor trainer? Is that a big part of your program? I’m not much of a Zwifter! For sure it is a valuable training tool that I use from time to time but after a day at school, it is great to get out for some fresh air. I will however use Zwift if the weather outside is a bit too much to bear or I need to fit a session into limited time, say for example a quick morning ride before traveling to a race straight after school.

Let’s talk about the race on the weekend: Anything specific about your nutrition you altered for this race? Nutrition is always key to any endurance race. Luckily living here in SA we get used to racing in the extreme heat. Staying hydrated and fuelled is crucial to maintaining performance throughout the event. I used a mix of products that I have experimented with over the season so far that I know work and won’t create any issues. Being a marathon event one can’t just consume gels for three-plus hours like you would in a XCO. So similarly to a road race, eating solid foods from the start and then moving to gels towards the last hour was my strategy.

There was a lot of singletrack and climbing – was there anything specific about your usual bike setup you altered for the race? I like to keep as many variables controlled as possible so try and keep my race set-up as consistent as possible. I have felt really comfortable and fast on my Supercaliber in the last couple of races so didn’t want to spoil a winning formula. The one change, however, was to add an extra bottle cage to the frame triangle for the extra distance. The terrain in Paarl is quite mixed especially with the forecasted rain earlier in the week so I stuck to my bread-and-butter Bontrager XR2 2.35 tyres.

Looking back, would you have done anything different? The race didn’t go exactly as planned. I believed that there would be a major split up the day’s biggest climb ‘the wall,’ but this was not that the case. It came down to a race of attrition. Whoever had the edge in the closing kilometres would have the win. In retrospect, I would have hit it harder up the major climb and committed more to a longer range attack, hopefully building a manageable gap to the line.

What is your current UCI ranking after the win? Unfortunately, without a full UCI marathon ranking for the Junior (u/18) category no points were scored during the event.  After spending a couple weeks away from cross-country (XCO) on the road and marathon my UCI ranking has dropped from 8th to 10th. This is however still sufficient to attain a front row start at most international races and World Championships later on in the year. 

You’ve had a super successful year so far and been mixing it up with different disciplines, what is your favourite and why? I’ve had a great season so far and it is super satisfying to see all the hard yards starting to pay off. Where it was once a requirement to specialise in a specific discipline within cycling, I believe that there is a new crop of rider on the rise. Inspired by the likes of Tom Pidcock and Matthieu van der Pol it has become clear that there is no need to specialise in one category. I enjoy road riding and MTB whilst dabbling in the Time Trial discipline too. I could not chose a favourite but enjoy them for different reasons. They compliment each other whilst keeping me on my toes and inspired to ride, confronting the new challenges of each discipline as I go.

The rise and rise of Kai von During
On a training ride in Tokai, Cape Town.

What is next for you? My next major goal for the season is SA XCO champs on the 10th of July. With a few XCO’s between now, I aim to gain as many UCI points as possible to maintain my standings on the world ranking. School-permitting, I would love to make a XCO World Championships debut in Val di Sole, Italy later on this year.

Keep it pinned Kai. Cheers.

| IMAGES: Chris Hitchcock & Gary Perkin |

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