Bradley Cox – the name on every National Cross Country fan’s lips after an intense weekend of racing in Swaziland. The MOTUL Alfie Cox Racing athlete conquered a 320km route of uncharted forests and technical terrain to storm to the overall victory on Saturday.
In a tight field of South Africa’s top racing talent, the win comes espcially sweet for Cox. In amongst the crowd of supporters was motorsport legend Alfie Cox, who was the first the embrace his son at the finish line.
“Brad is filling his dad’s boots!” – was a line that was repeated in the pits as the event drew to a close. Alfie thinks differently, however, and explained:
“Can’t be too easy for him, there’s a lot of expectations! But he knows he has to do it for himself… knows he doesn’t have to do anything for me. I don’t have to live my dreams through my child – I’ve done it. The motivation to train doesn’t come from me, that’s all him. He’s becoming his own champion!”
It’s not a boast, but a statement of pure contentment. We chat to Bradley about what it’s been like to be raised by the legendary Alfie Cox, and how he’s dealt with the expectations to be like his father as he pursues a motosport career of his own:
I think the first question on everyone’s mind is what it was like to grow up with a motorsport legend as a father?
It has its pros and cons. At the end of the day you just see him as your dad, with all his funny jokes and goofy mannerisms – except everyone wants to take pictures with him.
What were some of the stand out moments of your dad’s career that were especially significant to you as a child?
I was quite young when he was at the peak of his career, but one of the stand-out moments was definitely in 2005 when he did his last Dakar Rally on a bike. I remember being at the finish line waiting for him, and KTM had put on such a massive finale event.
At what point did you embrace the Cox racing genes and decide that this sport was something that you also really wanted to pursue?
I got my first bike at 5 years old, but I wasn’t too keen on racing in the beginning. In 2005 I decided that I wanted to give it a try, and the bug pretty much bit immediately. I was very into motocross back then, and did pretty well in my junior career. When I was 14 I won a championship in my first year as a senior rider, and I knew then that I wanted to make a career out of this sport.
How have you dealt with the kind of pressure people place on you as ‘Alfie’s son’ in an extremely competitive racing world?
My dad never put pressure on me growing up, and he was proud of me no matter what place I finished. He always told me that he’s achieved what he wanted to in his career, and doesn’t have to live out any dreams through me. I think that’s why my passion for riding never fizzled out, because I’ve always been racing for me.
What is your ultimate motorsport dream and how do plan to go about achieving that?
Since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to be a World Champion. I’ve taken different routes in my career, but the goal is still the same – to be the elite in the motorsport category that I choose.
What does it look like to YOU to “fill Alfie’s big boots”?
I’ve always done motocross, so that’s never really been an issue – until I tried Roof last year. That event was the first time I ever felt the pressure of trying to do what he did. But I have to make my own path, and I can’t get distracted by the outward pressure people place on me. Winning is just an awesome feeling, and not because I’m trying to fill my dad’s boots, it’s something I enjoy experiencing.
You saw a massive breakthrough in Eshowe this year when you took the overall win. Tell us about the build-up leading up to that moment?
That was really a special moment. A lot of people don’t know about the backstory though – I had just come back from a really tough three years in Europe. I was really tested with injury after injury, and didn’t achieve what I set out to do there. So eventually I came home, and really struggled mentally in 2017 to get back into things. I lost all my motivation and nearly threw in the towel. I took some time off, and realised how much I missed riding. So I signed up for three disciplines – offroad, motocross and enduro. My dad had obviously stood by me in those tough times, and really believed in me. So in that moment in Eshowe, he embraced me and we both knew that the hard work had finally paid off.
What kind of role does your dad play in your riding career?
It’s actually funny, he never trained me growing up. It was only when I started trying out enduro that he’d show me the odd skill or give me a tip here and there. As I’ve gotten older, I ride with him more, but he still never really ‘trains me’. I see him more as my mentor, who walks a road with me and gives me the best advice on race days from his years of experience.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your dad?
He always taught me to “make a plan”, whether I face a situation in life or a situation on the bike.
As you continue this generation of ‘legends’ in your own unique away – what kind of legacy do you hope to leave in the motorsport world?
If someday I can match my dad’s legacy, then that’s really cool. But at the end of the day, I just want to ride my bike for a really long time and be a role model to the younger generation in my own way. It’s actually really simple – I love motorbikes, they’re the coolest thing on earth, and I want to be involved in this world as much as long as I can, wherever that may take me.
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