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Shannon Terreblanche is a Natalian. To this not in the know, this means a few things. South Africa. Kwazulu-Natal province. Sun. Sea. Subtropical heat. Surf. But now things have changed. Shannon is a professional motocross racer, starting year’s work during the European winter, which means cold, rain, snow, sleet and mud. Quite a contrast, our readers would be keen to agree. But the heart of a racer pumps pure adrenalin and the thrill if the chase conquers all.

It was with nary a word of complaint then, that the twenty year old South African quietly packed his things after racing to a decent result at a snow-covered Lommel for yet another road trip into the world headquarters of the tollgate, France. The call to arms this time was from Valence, deep down in the French heartland. The Sturm Kawasaki outfit was there in full force, fielding all 3 its MX1 class riders at this event which had an entry list not unlike that of a Grand Prix.

The French track, situated in the industrial area of Valence offers much in the way of technical challenge, and some rain throughout the week which rendered the track muddy and rutted out did not help matters along either. Shannon struggled to find his rhythm on the difficult terrain, and this held him down to a rather unexciting position in the twenties during the qualifying session.

Despite a poor gate pick, Shanter made the best of a rather less than ideal situation to sling himself into the top 20 at the start of race 1. Bear in mind that the field was stacked with some of the world’s leading racing talent, and suddenly it all comes into perspective. The slippery track was always lying in the lurk, however, waiting to snare the unwary, and sure enough, a few laps into the race, Shannon’s bike spun out on a particularly slippery bend when he applied just a tad too much throttle in exiting the corner. This dropped him way down the field, and he was forced to remount and re-energize the charge of the light brigade. He was not getting to grips with the track in more ways than one, though, and had to be content with 23rd position by the fall of the flag.

In race two, one of those ironies that has a rich history in motocross racing, occurred. Shanter got a worse start than in race one, and was buried deep down in the pack, and way out of the points scoring zone. Judging by his struggles in race one, one might have thought that the day was heading downhill, but this time he turned his fortunes around. He kept plugging away and surged forward, working his way into the top 20 and putting his name onto the points table. It was not all over yet, either. He kept at it, and after a battle with Kevin Strijbos that lasted a few laps, he made it to race end without major mishaps this time. This time he was in 17th position, just ahead of Strijbos, and although he would have been far happier with a top 10 finish, he was not all that displeased with his second race outing. Racing in the MX1 class at world level with a measure of success requires a few things, and experience is certainly high on the desirability scale here. This day offered up much in the way of experienced, and it was a (slightly) older but (much) wiser Shannon who tackled the long journey back home.

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