Mountain biking phenom Mariske Strauss will join the team in January 2012. Coming off a stellar 2011 campaign that saw the nineteen-year-old South African race to top ten finishes on the UCI World Cup circuit and place eighteenth at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, Strauss is one of the top upcoming mountain bikers in the world. With a professional road racing background as well, Strauss will help lead Mars Hill’s growing women’s team into the future.
Strauss is the current South African cross country mountain bike champion, has represented South Africa at world championships the last four years, and has held a national title each of the last ten years. In 2012, Strauss will look to add collegiate victories to her resume, even as she continues to race an international calendar with an eye on selection to South Africa’s 2012 Olympic team.
With an enthusiasm for new and big experiences, it won’t be long before Strauss makes an impact on the collegiate racing scene, where she looks forward to the challenge of competing in multiple disciplines. Strauss will race cyclocross and is eager to give track racing a try too.
“I always put my wheel on the start line with winning in mind. I don’t come to races to finish second,” says Strauss, a spirited competitor who has overcome her share of setbacks and crashes along the way. A broken pedal during the 75km Die Burger MTB Challenge in July took her out of the lead and into last place only 10km into the race. But Strauss fixed that pedal with her toolkit, worked her way back up through the field, and won the race by over four minutes.
A crash the day before the World Championships in September, which Strauss positively frames as a “hug session with one of the trees,” left her whiplashed and bruised, yet Strauss raced the next day to one of her best World Championship performances. “Falling is part of this sport… and I try not to do it that often but if all else fails and the ground is coming closer very quickly my dad’s reassuring words always put things into perspective: ‘You can never fall farther than the ground.’”