The McMaster siblings from KZN might be unknown to some; these Team Giant SA downhill riders are young and eager to make it to the top step.
Struan (20) and Cullen McMaster (19) grewup in Ladysmith and currently live in Pietermaritzburg. They are both downhill riders for team Giant South Africa and we caught up with the pair.
Q What was it that first got you into cycling?
My parents introduced us to cycling from a very young age. We started off on our little push bikes and then we moved over to our first little pedal bikes by the age of two. We stayed on a smallholding outside Ladysmith and had ample place to ride, so many hours were spent on our bikes and we used all resources on the farm to build ramps, jumps and burms. By four years we had started racing junior motocross, using the skills we had learnt from hours spent on the bicycles.
Q Living in PMB what is your favourite route to ride, and why?
Coming from Ladysmith, you have very few steep hills and majority rocks, so the drawcard for moving to PMB was the advantage of riding at the Cascades MTB park. Cascades has a variety of trials, suited to every discipline but we obviously prefer the downhill tracks.
QDo you guys ever get time to see/ride or hang out with Greg Minnaar?
Yes we have bumped into Greg once or twice, but we haven’t yet had a chance to have a proper ride with him.
Q Give me some highlights from your careers in the past three years?
STRUAN: My best race was in 2017 in Helderberg national where I came fourth elite, but the highlight was having the opportunity to race a world cup in Andorra and an IXS cup in Leogang. Racing overseas exposed us to a whole different level of riding. It was also great to be amongst the top riders and watch and learn from them.
CULLEN: My highlight was being selected to ride for South Africa in 2016 in Val di Sole, Italy and then winning the Junior SA Championship in 2017 and being selected to race in Australia. This experience was such an eye opener for me, you cannot comprehend the level of competition overseas until you are placed amongst those top riders and witness first-hand the difficulty of those tracks, the adrenaline levels are high and once you’ve made it down safely, you don’t even consider your place, the experience is so overwhelming.
Q How did you guys get into the downhill scene? What draws you towards it?
A cousin in PMB had been to watch the World Cup at Cascades and knowing how much we loved riding bikes, said we should come and try out the track. At that stage we hadn’t even heard about downhill and decided to give it a try.
We then heard about a race at Karlkloof, managed to buy two second hand bikes and give it a try. My first race was a disaster (Struan) not even being able to finish a race run after tyre and rim problems. Cullen had a good run and ended third youth.
STRUAN: I didn’t know much about other disciplines of cycling and they didn’t seem exciting to me. Coming from a motorbike background I was looking for something a little more daring, fast paced and doing crazy stuff on a bicycle, and that’s what drew me to downhill.
CULLEN: I can’t say I enjoyed riding long distances on a bicycle, so downhill seemed like the perfect choice, you get shuttled to the top and then have to race down in the quickest time. We both love riding technical sections and having to do that at high speeds was definitely a drawcard for me. Of course, the social side of downhill riding is worth a mention, yes, the competition is real but the camaraderie amongst the riders is the best.
Q Tell us more about your relationship with Giant Bicycles?
Giant was the first downhill bikes we owned. When we purchased our bikes, we had very little knowledge of other brands but these bikes were great to start on. They were solid, comfortable and we adjusted to them immediately. We both have very different riding styles, but the geometry of the Giant bikes accommodate any riding style.
Q What do you guys have planned for the 2018 season?
Our biggest goal for 2018 is to try and get overseas to race for two or three months and take part in a few IXS cups and World Cups, but it’s been quite a struggle to find sponsorship, so we may have to postpone for 2019.
STRUAN: My hopes for this year was to at least get a podium at every race, that dream also ended when I fractured my wrist and did some serious cartilage damage in February. It’s taken a while to get full mobility back, but yet again, that hasn’t stopped me from trying, even if it meant freewheeling down the track at Hartbeespoort for SA Champs.
CULLEN: This is my first year as an elite rider, so my goal is to find my place and do the best I can, and of course, the ultimate dream would be to race overseas.
Q If you could race any other MTB discipline in SA, what would it be and why?
STRUAN: If I had to choose another discipline, I’d go with something that would help my downhill riding, so Enduro riding would be the next option. That would definitely help with fitness and endurance. I also wouldn’t mind trying my hand at BMX racing.
CULLEN: Definitely Enduro’s, although I think I would do a lot of complaining peddling to the top, but I know it would help with fitness and skill levels.
RIDING GIANT’S GLORY ADVANCED
What bikes are you currently on and what team do you race for?
We are both riding the new 2018 Giant Glory Advanced 0 for the Giant SA Team.
What makes your bike unique and why do you prefer it?
We have both only raced Giant bikes, so moving across to the new 2018 Giant was an easy transition. What makes the Giant bikes unique is that their geometry is really rider friendly and suitable to most riding styles.
STRUAN: What I love about this bike is that I have full confidence in how it performs, so on race day I can focus on my skills and speed.
CULLEN: The carbon frame is lighter and stiffer, and even though I have moved from a medium to a large frame, I still feel in control of the bike.
What is the greatest feature/component on your bike?
CULLEN: I think the 200mm of fully active Maestro rear suspension is a great feature that offers an efficient and independent rear suspension.
STRUAN: The bike has actually got some great components like the DT Swiss 240 hubs, SRAM shifters and derailleur and RockShox forks