YOUNG Namibian cyclist Tristan de Lange reached another milestone on Sunday when he won his first race in South Africa.
The 15-year-old De Lange has excelled in Namibia over the past year, winning several senior mountain bike events along the way, but now he has added his first title on South African soil to his growing resume.
Competing in the Sabie Mountain Bike Half Marathon event that forms part of the South African Nissan MB Cross-Country series, De Lange won the youth category, while he also came fourth overall riding against some of South Africa's top junior and senior cyclists.
De Lange dominated the youth category, completing the 40km course in a time of one hour, 48 minutes and nine seconds to finish four minutes ahead of the second-placed cyclist.
Top South African junior rider Dylan Rebello, who is currently leading the junior category of the Nissan Half Marathon Series, was the overall winner of the race in 1:44:49.
Senior cyclist Patric Belton came second in 1:46:19, while another junior cyclist, Nicholas Popich, came third in 1:48:09.
The 15-year-old De Lange came fourth overall in 1:48:58, to win the youth category, while the second-placed youth cyclist, Aidan van Niekerk, came 10th overall in 1:52:59.
It was a great performance by De Lange, considering that it was his first time riding in such conditions, with the track being wet and slippery from overnight rain.
The first half of the race consisted of a huge 1 000m hill climb which was also new to De Lange, while his progress was further hampered when he twice fell off his bike on slippery turns.
By the halfway stage he was lying sixth but improved as the race went on and managed to pass two cyclists over the closing stages to finish fourth overall.
The president of the Namibia Cycling Federation, Mannie Heymans, who accompanied De Lange to the race for support, said it was an exceptional ride.
"It was the first time that Tristan had done a half-marathon in South Africa so to come fourth against some of South Africa's top juniors, who are three years older than him, was really impressive," he said.
"The conditions were also new, especially the rain and mud and the 1000m hill climb, which we don't have in Namibia," so that made it all the more impressive," he added.
Heymans said he was very excited to see how De Lange will perform at the African Mountain Bike Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in two weeks' time.
"There won't be a youth category at the African Championships, so Tristan will be riding against the juniors and it will be interesting to see how he does then," he said.