Kenny Gilbert at the 2019 Koue Bokkeveld National Cross Country edition. Photo: www.zcmc.co.za
There is often nothing as heart-breaking in racing as a close second place. It’s no secret that Kenny Gilbert, multiple National Cross Country champion, has grown tired of being dealt that card.   
 
In what has been an epic three-year battle with Ross Branch, Gilbert has only narrowly fallen short of national glory. While it is difficult to predict anything this early in the season – Gilbert’s hope of stepping out of his rival’s shadow looks promising in 2019.
 
The first round of the championship left most riders stunned when a surprise entry was made by enduro specialists Wade Young and Travis Teasdale. On a route that was more suited for technically-driven riders, the pair stormed to first and second place respectively and left the championship standings in utter disarray.
 
With a much bigger picture in mind, Gilbert managed to get some solid points in the bag and, more importantly, finish ahead of Branch.
 
Fast forward to the second round of the series and Gilbert lined up in the rugged Koue Bokkeveld with more determination than ever. On a route that presented constantly varying terrain, the rider felt right at home. With a hard-chasing pack behind him, Gilbert stormed ahead to open up a gap of over two minutes and ultimately claim the win overall.
 
The victory comes at the perfect time for Gilbert. With the Botswana Desert Race scratched off the National Cross Country calendar (an event that has always suited Branch’s style of riding), the win will carry more weight than usual going into the season ahead.
 
“I only won the time trial by two seconds ahead of Ross today, so as usual we started racing neck-and-neck. When we got onto the sandy section he’d catch me, and then I’d make up time on the rocky sections. It’s always good racing against him, and to take the win means a lot to me! I’ve been working hard, and today was my day,” said Gilbert.
Kenny Gilbert and his Cross Country rival – Ross Branch. Photo: www.zcmc.co.za