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A hunt for national glory will be spearheaded by Cross Country legend Kenny Gilbert in Gauteng this weekend. 
It’s been a while since the multiple South African champion stood on the top step of the podium. Gilbert held the prestigious OR1 title from 2013-2015, and has finished in a painfully close second place since.
While it’s difficult to make predictions this early in the season, it looks like 2019 just might be Gilbert’s year. After a mouth-watering performance in the Koue Bokkeveld, the rider will enter the third round of the series with the red plate and overall lead.
We catch up with Glibert just days before he goes to war:
You’ve come into the season with a new energy this year. What has made the biggest difference to your performance?
I started out the season like I do every year – putting my head down and training hard. This year I’ve just gone into it with a different mindset though. I’m not as ‘serious’ and more laid-back in my approach, and it seems to be working.
After three years of finishing in a close second place, what is your mindset like?
It’s made me more determined than ever. Coming so close each year makes me want that number one plate even more, and hopefully this is the year that I can make that happen.
Having come so painfully close to winning last year, what do you think will be the ‘secret’ to maintaining the lead to the end this time?
It’s going to be a tough season because there aren’t any ‘throw-aways’ (you can’t throw away your worst result). It’s all about maximising points with every race and capitalising on whatever I can get on the bad days.
How do you feel about the fact that the Botswana 1000 is out of the picture this year? 
In some way I’m sad about it because I love the race itself. But at the same time, it’s the race that’s always been in Ross Branch’s backyard – my main competition. He’s walked away with 50 points there for the last three years. So purely for that reason, I’m excited for something new.  
It’s no longer a Ross-Kenny showdown this season, and we’ve seen so many other riders rise up to the OR1 challenge too. How does that impact the way you approach a race now?
It’s always challenging to stay on the top, especially with new guys coming in. It keeps it all exciting and stops me from getting complacent. You have to come into every race with the awareness that every rider on that start line could be a threat. It’s good for the sport, and helps me stay focused and stay fast.