Matteo Damilano, a Grade 11 student at Reddam House, Bedfordview took his passion for Mountain Biking and Cross-country racing to new heights when he was selected by Cycling SA to represent South Africa at the upcoming African Continental MTB XCO Championships to be held in Windhoek, Namibia from 12 to 14 April.
This newly capped Protea saw his path to greatness get its first boost in grade 8 when MTB was offered as an official school sport at Reddam House, Bedfordview and, in each subsequent year, his passion for the sport has continued to grow.
In 2018 Matteo competed in the XCO (Cross Country Olympic) discipline at Provincial, National and school level. He raced in the Youth Men category which consists of riders 15 and 16 years of age.
At Provincial level he finished the season in first place overall and was consequently awarded Gauteng Provincial colours (the awards ceremony was held on Saturday, 16 March).
At National level Matteo finished third overall despite missing the last race of the season due to an injury which prevented him from competing in the Spur MTB High School League races.
In 2019 Matteo moved up to the Junior Men category (17 & 18 years of age). Being only 16 years old this made Matteo one of the younger riders in the age group and he had to compete against the more experienced and older 17- and 18-year olds.
The first two national races for the year were held in Cape Town at Bloemendal Wine Estate. The first SA Cup race on Saturday, 2 March formed part of the UCI Junior World Series and attracted a record number of International riders.
Over 50 International riders and 27 countries were represented at the event. The temperatures soared to almost 40 degrees on Day 1 and all riders suffered equally in the heat and dust. Matteo finished 8th on Day 1, with four International riders ahead of him, making him the 4th South African across the line.
The second SA Cup race on Sunday, 3 March was marked by rain and mist with temperatures falling to the upper teens. The start was plagued by a pile-up in which Matteo lost time and positions and fell towards the back of the bunch. Despite this disadvantage at the start, he gave it his all and managed to finish in 10th place.
By the end of two intensive days of racing in Cape Town, combined with his achievements in 2018, Matteo had met the criteria to be selected by Cycling SA to represent South Africa at the upcoming African Continental MTB XCO Championships in Namibia.
Matteo is very proud to have been awarded his Protea colours for cycling. It has been an incredible journey for him and he is thankful to all the people who contributed to his success. From the enthusiastic Mrs. Anthea Fanucchi who pushed his interest as his first school MTB teacher to his current coach, Mariske Strauss who is the Elite Women SA Champion. Not forgetting his sponsors Complete Cyclist who supported Matteo and all Reddam riders.
We will be keeping a close eye on Matteo to spur him on and realise his immense potential in the sport.