South African downhill stars Andrew Neethling and current World Champion Greg Minnaar both stood on the podium at the penultimate fifth round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano, which took place at Hafjell, Norway on Sunday.
With sunny, dry and dusty conditions during the week leading up to the final on Sunday, the weather changed overnight delivering challenging, wet, windy and cold weather on race day, with intermittent rain throughout the day.
As course conditions deteriorated, many riders made mistakes on the slippery track, ending their podium chances. But not Neethling. The Giant Factory Off-road Team rider was the fifteenth rider to descend the technical track, setting a time of 3 minutes 42.957 seconds, and holding his place on the hot seat for 56 riders and 90 minutes before his teammate Danny Hart (GBR) knocked him off the top spot.
The podium for the penultimate downhill round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Hafjell, Norway. From left: Samuel Blenkinsop (NZL 4th), Danny Hart (GBR 2nd), Steve Smith (CAN 1st), Andrew Neethling (RSA 3rd), Greg Minnaar (RSA 5th). Photo credit: Kathy Sessler/Santa Cruz Syndicate
“I’m beyond stoked,” said the 29-year-old Capetonian, Neethling. “The track conditions were miserable. It carried on raining since our practice session, and it was very windy and raining hard at the top. I was a bit worried about vision, but it worked out all right I guess.
“I love the Norway track, it really has a mix of everything. From big jumps to fast sections, technical rock sections and the new style bike park berms. It was a real test in the wet though.”
Neethling was pleased with his run, saying that it went pretty close to exactly how he wanted it to go. “I was a bit nervous at the top, just looking out into the rain,” he said. “I just wanted to ride committed and not hesitate, and I achieved that. Beyond the result, I am happy with how I attacked the course given the conditions. I am also happy for my team and teammates who had great rides too. It was very cool to be up there with Greg (Minnaar) on the podium as well.”
World Champion Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) overcomes the treacherous track conditions in Hafjell, Norway at the weekend to finish in fifth place and earn himself another World Cup podium position. Photo credit: Kathy Sessler/Santa Cruz Syndicate
World Champion Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) wasn’t pleased with his ride, saying that he just couldn’t put his run together the way he wanted to.
“I was riding great all week, but in my race I had moments of brilliance mixed with moments of struggling,” said the 31-year-old from Pietermaritzburg. “The conditions did not let up for my run at all. The rain was intense and the track was deteriorating. I felt I was riding well all week and my result was not quite there, but looking forward, it was a good taste of what to expect for World Champs 2014.
“I am happy that it was enough to get me on the podium and I’m even more stoked that Steve (Peat, teammate) was right behind me!” said Minnaar.
This weekend, Neethling and Minnaar will compete in the final downhill round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Leogang, Austria.