Stefan Garlicki Is Still in the Game

The last time we caught up with South African mountain biker Stefan Garlicki, he seemed to be transitioning from pro athlete to full-time content creator. Two major surgeries in one year – a total hip replacement, and a shoulder Latarjet –  understandably took a toll on Stefan’s desire to compete. After already scaling back his 2024 race schedule, Stefan didn’t expect much when he entered the 2024 South African National Championships, let alone take first place. Now, not only is Stefan Garlicki still in the game, he’s leading the pack. We spoke with Stefan to discuss his victory, his road to wellness, and what’s next.

How did it feel to win the 2024 South African National Championships?

It was really emotional for me because the last six years were pretty difficult, having an injury. The last time I won the South African National Championship was eight years ago, actually.

So, I didn’t think that I would ever get back to that level, even just a couple of years ago.

To be on the top step was pretty unreal.

Did your injuries affect your plans for the championships?

At the end of 2022, I had a hip replacement. A full hip replacement on the right side, which finally enabled me to ride pain-free, pretty much. At the time, the hope was that I would be able to compete in the 2023 Championships.

But it took a bit longer than I anticipated – just to get that confidence back, and get the strength back – because I had another six months off the bike.

So, having another year under my belt, and just building that confidence through the year, I finally had an off-season with no surgery.

I came into 2024 feeling so much stronger, physically and mentally. And confident in everything.

How did you stay positive during your recovery?

Family and friends, I would say, were the most important things that kept me going through that time. I felt like I was at rock bottom.

And at that point, my whole life had been just racing. So it was really difficult for me to deal with, because I felt like I’d lost a part of myself.

And then also contemplating the fact of not racing again… I had to figure out who I am without racing. At that point, I didn’t really know what my future was going to look like.

But I had my partner, my girlfriend at the time, and she helped me a lot through that.

Was your doctor worried about your return to racing?

Definitely.

I think my family wanted me to stop racing, too. They made that pretty clear. My doctor wasn’t exactly thrilled, especially after he did the hip replacement, to know that I’m going to keep racing.

And now that you’re a national champion?

Yeah, I actually sent him a picture of the podium and a little voice note afterwards. He was really happy.

But at the same time, he sees the videos and the images and stuff, and I think it makes him more nervous.

How do you balance racing hard with racing safely?

At the end of the day, it’s one run, one chance. And you have to sort of risk everything.

But you can’t have a mechanical issue, or a crash, or anything. You’ve got to know where to push, and where to take it easy.

Does this win change the future of your career at all?

The main motivation to race was: 1) winning the national championships, and 2) qualifying for a World Cup final.

They have the World Cup series every year, and they’ve got various events around the world. The last time I qualified was right before I got injured, so that was another huge goal.

But I don’t think it’s going to change whether I’m going to race for many more years.

It definitely has been very rewarding for me, after all the suffering and hard work, to show that that was worth it.

What’s next for your mountain biking career?

This year I’ve got about six major events on the calendar for the World Championships. And I’ve got the Austrian round, three European rounds, and a couple of other small events.

Then my main focus is filming for my YouTube series, Swapping Lines. I’ve just done the second episode, and I’ve got another three planned which will take me to Canada and the US, and maybe Australia.

Does this win change the future of your career at all?

The main motivation to race was: 1) winning the national championships, and 2) qualifying for a World Cup final.

They have the World Cup series every year, and they’ve got various events around the world. The last time I qualified was right before I got injured, so that was another huge goal.

But I don’t think it’s going to change whether I’m going to race for many more years.

It definitely has been very rewarding for me, after all the suffering and hard work, to show that that was worth it.

What’s next for your mountain biking career?

This year I’ve got about six major events on the calendar for the World Championships. And I’ve got the Austrian round, three European rounds, and a couple of other small events.

Then my main focus is filming for my YouTube series, Swapping Lines. I’ve just done the second episode, and I’ve got another three planned which will take me to Canada and the US, and maybe Australia.

Tell us more about Swapping Lines.

The idea came to me last year, in the middle of the season, because I was thinking that last year was gonna be my last year. It actually wasn’t, but I needed an idea.

I needed something to focus on, media-wise, that was different, that hadn’t been done before. I was thinking of something that I would enjoy, that would be unique, and would bring people a new experience with every episode.

I thought it would be amazing to ride with the world’s best riders in unique locations, in a lot of the places where I’ve dreamed of riding. With riders I’ve never ridden with.

What do you hope people take away from your experience?

I just hope people can find some inspiration from it.

Tell us more about Swapping Lines.

The idea came to me last year, in the middle of the season, because I was thinking that last year was gonna be my last year. It actually wasn’t, but I needed an idea.

I needed something to focus on, media-wise, that was different, that hadn’t been done before. I was thinking of something that I would enjoy, that would be unique, and would bring people a new experience with every episode.

I thought it would be amazing to ride with the world’s best riders in unique locations, in a lot of the places where I’ve dreamed of riding. With riders I’ve never ridden with.

I don’t think that I’m particularly talented, or gifted, or anything. I have worked as hard as I possibly can to achieve my goals, and it just happened that I chose mountain biking.

And through all the injuries and stuff, I just wanted to prove to myself that I was able to actually overcome all of this.

And prove that it’s possible, even when things get unbelievably dark, that you can pick yourself up and get back to the top.

Things could be going absolutely amazingly, and then everything could flip on its head. And the easiest thing to do is just give up.

“If I could inspire even just one or two people to keep going and reach their goals, then that would be a success for me.” OnlyFans Icon

What do you hope people take away from your experience?

I just hope people can find some inspiration from it.

I don’t think that I’m particularly talented, or gifted, or anything. I have worked as hard as I possibly can to achieve my goals, and it just happened that I chose mountain biking.

And through all the injuries and stuff, I just wanted to prove to myself that I was able to actually overcome all of this.

And prove that it’s possible, even when things get unbelievably dark, that you can pick yourself up and get back to the top.

Things could be going absolutely amazingly, and then everything could flip on its head. And the easiest thing to do is just give up.

“If I could inspire even just one or two people to keep going and reach their goals, then that would be a success for me.” OnlyFans Icon

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