Richard Cunynghame on Burry Stander
Richard was set to interview Burry about his success, here we celebrate him & his achievements.
The battles between riders on track in mountain biking are always heated yet the community counters this with such a genuine friendliness between riders that it shows the true basis of the sport; riding a bike with your friends. When one of those friends is taken away it is felt strongly.
On January the third, the mountain biking world was dealt a tragic blow with the news that Burry Stander had died whilst training on a road ride. The 25-year-old South African had just come off his best Cross-country World Cup season ever and was looking set to go on to even greater things.
Having watched Burry race it was evident to see that he rode with a deep passion, yet I never got to know him and discover what the person was like that lay behind the rider. Speaking to some of the people that knew him well, it very quickly becomes clear that he was a special person.
Burry and I travelled the world together racing in the most prestigious World Cup and Olympic races and it was great to see his meteoric rise and to share that experience and success with him- Todd Wells
Todd Wells rode with Burry on GT and Specialized, and was a great mentor and friend to him. When I asked him to say a few things about Burry what he replied is very telling of just what an incredible man he was, “Most great athletes are very selfish and self-absorbed, this is one of the things that makes them a great athlete, their ability to block everything else out. Burry was a great athlete but he was also a very generous and giving person, which makes everything he was able to accomplish in such a short time even more astounding. He was always happy and willing to help no matter what was going on.
“Burry and I travelled the world together racing in the most prestigious World Cup and Olympic races and it was great to see his meteoric rise and to share that experience and success with him. He was one of my best friends and although we would spend the entire off-season on different continents in different hemispheres, when we saw each other at the races it was like we weren't even apart for a day. I miss him everyday.”
Bobby Behan who signed Burry to Specialized tells a story that paints a great picture of Burry’s character and what effect that had on those around him and friends like Todd, “Although many remember Burry as a racer, there was much more to Burry. I go back to 2008 and the conclusion of our contract negotiation, in Burry joining Specialized. We were both very happy. When the deal was done, Burry added ‘Bobby I have one further non-negotiable stipulation! Todd Wells comes with me to Specialized’. Burry put his future on the line to help a friend who was good to him through his years of development. Todd Wells was a super addition to the program and the pair brought an incredible sense of humour and fun to the team. The team won't be the same without Burry.”
Another teammate whom Burry had great success with was Christoph Sauser at the Cape Epic race in Burry’s native South Africa. Having won it the last two years with Burry, this year Christoph raced with their Specialized teammate and Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, honouring their friend by racing as the Burry Stander-Songo team.
Specialized Team Manager Benno Willeit explained the emotions after the pair had come from behind to take the win by seven minutes, “The whole race is hectic and lots of things to do and while the race is on you don't have much time to think about what we do and what we are here for but we went there to win this race for Burry! Once the guys crossed the finish line in Lourensford the pressure was gone and the emotion took over. Joy and sorrow have never been so close together like at this finish there!”
Coming off the 2012 season where Burry had won another World Cup, finished fifth at his second Olympic Games and claimed a brilliant second place in the World Cup series, it was clear this man was set to make even more of an impact on the mountain biking world yet it appears the impact he had made already was incredibly powerful and shone with a personality that was as great as his achievements on the bike.