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What does selling real estate and mountain biking have in common?

At first glance, there may not seem much correlation between mountain biking and selling real estate. Pam Golding Properties would not agree. In this, Women’s Month (August), they are focusing attention on professional mountain biker Candice Neethling (23), who is now a sponsored brand ambassador for the company.


 
The daughter of a KwaZulu-Natal sugar cane farmer, at the age of just 20 Candice represented South Africa in the cross country event in the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she competed against an elite field of the world’s top women mountain bikers despite her being in the under 23 age group. Her win at the 2012 African Continental Championship in Mauritius had qualified her for the sole women’s spot on the SA Olympic Mountain Biking team. And just prior to being chosen for the London Olympics she competed in an Under 23 World Cup in Windham, New York, where she also received a bronze medal.
 
Candice is no stranger to world competition. Despite a crash during the race, she won a Bronze medal (3rd place) at the 2009 Junior World Championships in Canberra, Australia - where she became the first African woman to win a medal at a mountain biking world championship. She has competed in every World Championships since then – the junior event in Canada in 2010 and Under 23 in Switzerland in 2011.
 
Although she came last in a field of 30 in the 2012 Olympic event, this only strengthened her resolve to become a top achiever. Candice will know soon if she has made the 2015 National Mountain Biking team, and a key goal for her is to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  This year (2015) she aims to take part in the World Championships in Andora in Spain.
 
“The 2012 Olympics were tough but I learnt a great deal from the experience, particularly how to maintain focus amid the pressure and excitement of such a major, high-energy event. My dream is to stand on the podium at the Olympic Games, and Rio is one of my stepping stones towards achieving this goal,” she says.
 
So why the association with Pam Golding Properties? “I feel a strong synergy between the drive, ambition, determination and dedication to succeed of founder and life president, Pam Golding herself - and the culture of the company, in a highly competitive environment. I too am passionate about what I do, whatever I am involved in, and I always strive for excellence in the task at hand, constantly raising the bar. Mediocrity gets under my skin.”


 
Being originally from KZN, Candice gained valuable training in the rocky terrain of the Oribi Gorge area of the south coast. She attended boarding school in Pietermaritzburg and is currently living in Cape Town, where her coach is also based. From here, and in between studying a BSc part-time via UNISA, she trains for  about 16 to 25 hours a week, and travels to events around the country and internationally.  If she needs to be fresh for an important race or it’s a rest week, then she puts in some 10-12 hours of training.
 
“In training for cross country I need to do higher intensity/shorter efforts. For example 10 x 2 minutes or 20 x 1 minute and sprints with little recovery time in between.  For a marathon I need longer efforts such as 5 x 10 minutes or long, uncomfortable tempo riding as I must be able to ride harder and faster for longer than the other competitors. So the focus shifts from week to week and month to month, while it’s often difficult to get the balance correct, plus I need to factor in time to rest.”
 
Candice has always had a love for bicycles. “At the age of three I announced to my parents that I wanted to ride to the hotel and back – a total of 22km. My enterprising farmer dad made a plan by securing a broomstick at the back of my little yellow bicycle in case he needed to push me along. From that very first ride I knew I felt a connection with a bicycle and turning those pedals fast.
 
“Fortunately for me, growing up on the farm I had space to roam freely and explore the mountains at my doorstep on a bicycle, and nothing made me happier. Racing began at the age of 11 when I completed a 30km local race with my dad, and while becoming progressively more focused and professional to today, the feeling of pure abandonment and freedom I get from riding a bicycle has remained the same.”
 
She explains that basically there are three different types of mountain biking events. The most popular in South Africa is stage racing, which is an ultra-endurance event stretched over three to eight days, with each day comprising 70-120km. Examples are the Absa Cape Epic, Sani2c , Cape Pioneer Trek and Wines2Whales, which are all televised.
 
Then there is marathon racing, which is a one day race ranging from 70 to 120km. There is a national series of seen such events around the country, with a winner at the end as well as a national championship. These are big events with mass participation, such as The Ashburton Series, Hill2Hill and Karkloof Classic.
 


The third type of event is cross country racing, which is the Olympic discipline, and is a growing sport. The 4-5km circuit contains steep climbs, rock gardens, jumps and challenging sections of downhill. Racing time is 90 minutes so it demands a lot of speed and explosive power as opposed to endurance.
 
Says Candice: “The obstacles on the World Cup circuit are what mountain bikers refer to as ‘knarly’. It’s a sport where every second counts and there’s no room for error. It is intense and pressured and requires immense mental capacity when you enter an obstacle at 180 beats per minute. The most challenging obsctacle I’ve found is the rock garden on the Pietermaritzburg World Cup course. Riders have to negotiate a ‘waterfall’ of rocks down a steep and seemingly endless slope – one wrong placement of the front wheel and the result could be catastrophic.
 
“My role model in the mountain biking world is current Marathon World Champion and Absa Cape Epic winner, Annika Langvad from Denmark. Frequently finishing in the top five in cross country World Cup events, she is 29 and has also just completed her degree to become a dentist. What speaks to me most is the humble way in which she conducts herself, she always has time to speak to people and is a fun-loving person who brings energy to the serious racing scene. At the same time she is professional and knows what she wants, and is always striving to improve the state of women’s cycling. She inspires me to challenge myself and never stop growing as a person. I hope to one day inspire other young women in this way.”
 
A very competitive sport, mountain biking has an ever-increasing following among both men and women. Although the men are faster, some of the top women in South Africa are up there among the top 20 mountain bikers in the country. “I read somewhere of mountain biking being referred to as the ‘new golf’, which makes perfect sense. It’s an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors with high energy to escalate fitness levels, perfect to counter-balance the hectic lifestyle of the modern world.”


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