Meet the Rally Rider: Giniel de Villiers has a mountain biking addiction.
Giniel de Villiers has had a long and successful career in motorsport so far. The 2009 Dakar Rally champion may be one of the top Rally Raid drivers in the world but he also dominated local touring car racing in the 90s, with four South African Touring Car titles, including three in a row from 1997-1999. It was back in this decade that he also got into something (or is that onto?) that doesn’t require an engine.
“I started cycling in 1993 when I finished my studies in Stellenbosch and I have been riding ever since,” says the 41-year-old. So how does mountain biking help Giniel with his rally driving? “First of all it keeps me fit and I love to do it which is a bonus. When mountain biking you have to read lines and judge the surface if you want to go fast, just like in a rally car.”
“In mountain biking you have to read lines and judge the surface if you want to go fast, just like in a rally car”
Giniel tries to ride 4-5 times a week on average and living in Stellenbosch makes it easy for him. “It’s really a few seconds and then you are in the mountains.” He takes part in as many races as he can with his most recent ones being Sani2c and Wines2Whales.
The Robertson-born racer also likes kitesurfing in Cape Town during the summer. “I do some road cycling and swimming as well. I think any training is good for you and the more different things you do the better you will be as an
Can you compare fitness levels from your touring car days to Dakar and Rally Raid? I would probably say that I am fitter now. A race like the Dakar demands a lot more of you physically and mentally than going around the circuit for a few laps.
Favourite local trail? It has to be Jonkershoek. It is one of the nicest places to ride a mountain bike and I love all the singletrack.
We see you’re really into Specialized, what is it about the brand that you like? In my opinion they make the best bikes, but not only that. There is a great bunch of people involved there. With their South African head office now situated in Stellenbosch, it is the perfect scenario.
Specialized S-Works Epic Carbon 29
Engine One really fit human being
Brakes 180mm discs (front), 160mm (rear)
Gears SRAM XX One 11-speed
Tyres Specialized S-Works Fast Trak
Ground clearance 304mm
Toyota Hilux Dakar Racer
Engine 5-litre all-aluminium V8
Brakes 320x32mm ventilated discs all round
Gears SADEV six-speed sequential gearbox
Tyres Michelin Rally Raid all-terrain competition
Ground clearance 300mm
Originally published in the May/June 2013 issue.