Catching up with our local racing stars when they are competing overseas is always a treat, particularly when it is a humble small-town Eastern Cape champion who now has the potential to become South Africa’s next international Motocross star.
For 26-year-old Tristan Purdon, racing is almost second nature. Growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in the Eastern Cape, somewhere between Cathcart and Queenstown, Purdon got his first second hand bike from his cousin when he was just three years old. “That’s how I started riding and have honestly never looked back. Riding is my life and I have just been at it from day one,” says Purdon.
He certainly has had an impressive tenure as a KTM Red Bull team rider locally and now faces his biggest challenge, competing in the prestigious MXGP series in Europe. Here he will be challenging his skills against the world’s best in one of the most fiercely contested championships in the sport.
Motorsport South Africa recently had the privilege of conducting a short 15 minute one-on-one interview with Purdon and here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about your journey?
Tristan: The Motocross bug bit when my dad took me to my first local Motocross track when I was five and I literally just kept practicing and progressing from there, finally competing in Border championships and then moving up to Nationals. Finally in 2011 when I was in the Pro-Mini class I got my first win and championship. That was the spark and probably the first time when I realised I could go further with the sport, particularly when I won the championship again the following year.
What was it like moving onto bigger bikes?
Tristan: I struggled a bit moving on to the bigger bikes, but we showed good results. We just had to work through some bad luck. Then during my rookie year when I moved into the much harder MX1 class I won my first MX1 National championship title. That was quite special to win a big bike championship, particularly in my Rookie year in MX1. A few years on we won three MX1 Championships in a row and an MX2 championship in the same year, so that was also really special and now I almost pinch myself when I think I am finally competing overseas.
What is it about the sport that appeals to you so much?
Tristan: I think living life riding is the best thing ever – I just to get on the bike and forget about everything. Even my wife says I’m a different person when I’m on my bike or even when I just have my helmet on (chuckle).
This is not a timid sport – what’s been your worst injury?
Tristan: I’ve had a few but I’d say my worst injury is when I broke the scaphoid bone and two metacarpals in my left wrist. I still struggle with movement in my wrist and get a bit of pain with it which bothers me when I am training. Touch wood I have been lucky with injuries though so that really is the worst one.
What about your training, off the bike, on the bike, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Tristan: Motocross is quite a demanding sport. It takes a lot out of your body so you have to be at the top of your game with fitness. I increased my training a lot this year, just because the competition and tracks are a lot rougher, so you have to be a lot fitter. I do a lot more cycling and more muscle training and spend much longer on the bike. I have also changed my nutrition a lot and that has really helped.
What does an average meal day look like?
Typically what I eat in a day is an organic egg and bacon for breakfast. For lunch I usually enjoy a healthy pasta salad and then finish off with a meal kit for dinner from HelloFresh which my wife cooks for us.
Any advice for youngsters that want to get into the sport?
Tristan: The sport is a great family sport. It is so good for kids and ideal to keep them busy and occupied. Then if you want to do this as a career, I’d say never give up. We all say that but in this sport it really is true. You just need to keep pushing through, even on the bad days. Then also never forget to enjoy it. The lifespan in motocross is short – age 30 to 35 is when most people retire. So enjoy the moments, the racing, and all the friends you make at the track. Just enjoy it.
What do you do to relax?
Tristan: My wife and I started playing badminton and we enjoy going for walks. Now that we are based in the UK we also are doing lots of travelling with the European Grands Prix. There is basically a race every weekend.
“We are so proud to see Tristan confidently moving into the big leagues, representing South Africa and competing in select rounds of the MXGP series, the premier championship of Motocross racing, as well as the British Motocross Championship,” says Adrian Scholtz, Chief Executive of Motorsport SA.
The last word comes from Tristan on how it feels to be competing on the global stage. “I’ve got to be honest, it’s a bit intimidating, especially coming from one of the smallest towns in South Africa. Sometimes, I feel like it’s all eyes on me. It’s a big deal and a lifelong dream, and all I want to do is make everyone proud! I hope to encourage all the other kids like me, who didn’t come from much and show that your wildest dreams are possible if you just have the passion and dedication to achieve them!” finishes Purdon.