Interview: Natia van Heerden
Executive chef, successful triathlete and now mountain biker Natia van Heerden certainly likes variety in her life. When she’s not picking organic vegetables on her farm or concocting delicious dishes for her café, you’ll find her out on the road, training for her next race. We spoke to her about training with men, competing in multidiscipline sports and preparing for the upcoming Fedhealth MTB Challenge in September.
What’s it like competing alongside men in the sporting arena?
Natia van Heerden: Mostly, it’s very exciting. You tend to build a friendship with the men you race with. You share race stories after events, experiences you’ve had, as well as nutrition and equipment tips. Everyone becomes like one big family.
Are you taken seriously in the sporting industry by men and women alike?
Natia van Heerden: Yes, men tend to respect women for their abilities and give us the praise when earned.
Sometimes you get the odd guy who refuses to move off the track because he doesn’t want to get ‘chicked’ and that does get frustrating. Women and men finally earn the same amount of prize money at events, so I think this also shows that women’s racing is just as competitive as the men’s races.
What are you most looking forward to in terms of the upcoming Fedhealth MTB Challenge?
Natia van Heerden: I have heard that the trails are really amazing so I am looking forward to great riding! The organisation at Fedhealth races is always fantastic which also adds great value to the race. And of course, Boschendal is a stunning venue.
What are your top tips for any female athletes wanting to compete professionally in events like the MTB Challenge and XTERRA, i.e. multi disciplines?
Natia van Heerden:
- Know the route by pre-riding the course a few days before the race.
- It helps to have a race plan and knowing where to take nutrition or hydration.
- Get your bike checked before race day. In order to race fast, your bike must be working perfectly.
- Train with the nutrition you’re planning to use on race day. You really don’t want an upset stomach on race morning or out on the course.
- Rest well two nights before the event and eat whole foods. Stick to foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.
How have you been training for the MTB Challenge?
Natia van Heerden: I am currently training for Ironman events but cross train on my MTB at least twice a week. I’ll definitely spend more time on trails and single track a month or two prior to the event to sharpen my downhill skills.