Minnaar: “My toughest World Cup yet”

The rain came down and not even that could stop the greatest downhill racer of all time, Greg Minnaar, from nailing the Fort William track in Scotland to win his 20th Downhill World Cup of his career, and his seventh Downhill World Cup win at “The Fort” on Sunday 4 June.

The rain came down and not even that could stop the greatest downhill racer of all time, Greg Minnaar, from nailing the Fort William track in Scotland to win his 20th Downhill World Cup of his career, and his seventh Downhill World Cup win at “The Fort” on Sunday 4 June.

The 35-year-old was 0,2 seconds off the pace at the first time split but by the time he reached the second time split, he was up by three seconds. He kept it tidy in the woods and powered his way over the table top jumps and kept the pace up to claim his victory by three seconds.

“I didn’t think luck was on my side today, it started raining hard at the top and I spent myself trying to ride hard. With the rain in my face, my vision not good and I knew I would have to pull a tear off before I went into the woods,” Minnaar told Red Bull TV.

The section in the woods saw a few crashes as the muddy ruts caught a few riders off guard as the race progressed. But Minnaar remained tucked into his cockpit to chisel away at the time splits.

“I rode it smooth until the end of the woods and opened it up at the bottom,” he said. “This is my toughest World Cup win for sure, I worked for this run.”

Minnaar now leads the UCI World Cup Series with 292 points as the riders and crew head to Leogang in Austria for round three next weekend.

Fellow South Africans Stefan Garlicki and Johann Potgieter also competed with Garlicki finishing in 35th place, while Potgieter finished 71st.

Summary of Results
1.Greg Minnaar (RSA) 4:40.344
2.Jack Moir (AUS) 4:43.323 +2.979
3.Aaron Gwin (USA) 4:44.143 +3.799
4.Marcelo GUTIERREZ VILLEGAS (COL) 4:44.834 +4.490
5.Remi THIRION (FRA) 4:45.020 +4.676
35.Stefan Garlicki (RSA) 5:03.548 +23.204
71.Johann Potgieter (RSA) 5:23.171 +42.827

Minnaar’s historic 19th World Cup victory at the Fort

Three-time Downhill World Champion, Greg Minnaar, completed a flawless run to post the fastest time with a winning margin of more than three seconds to claim his historic 19th World Cup victory at Fort William, Scotland, on Sunday.

After previously winning five times at the UK venue, Greg Minnaar managed to cruise down the hill to claim his sixth, making the win his 19th World Cup victory, at the UCI MTB World Cup Series leg in Fort William, Scotland, on Sunday. Photo Credit: Kathy Sessler / Santa Cruz Syndicate

Three-time Downhill World Champion, Greg Minnaar, completed a flawless run to post the fastest time with a winning margin of more than three seconds to claim his historic 19th World Cup victory at Fort William, Scotland, on Sunday.

Minnaar’s qualifying run on a dry and blown-out course was a nightmare, as he broke his wheel resulting in a loss of air pressure and ultimately a flat tyre after halfway. This meant that he didn’t have a good judge of speed in the bottom section of the track ahead of race day. He started the final on Sunday with 17 riders still to go.

“Up until then, I knew I had the fastest midway split and so I could build on that. I knew I had a couple of seconds on the guys then from qualifying before my wheel broke,” he said.

Having previously won five times at the popular UK venue, it didn’t mean that Minnaar’s run would be any easier on Sunday and he acknowledged that the dry conditions made the course one of the roughest tracks that he had ever raced at Fort William.

“It was super hard on the equipment for everyone; we all took strain trying to get our bikes down the hill in one piece.”

Minnaar’s UK roots go back 16 years when he started racing for a professional UK-based downhill team. “To me the venue is quite special because it’s the only World Cup in the UK. The UK is where I started my racing career on Animal Orange in 2000, so it’s like my home away from home, which is what makes it so special for me.”

Using the smooth and flowing style that has become synonymous with Minnaar’s racing action on the bike, he posted the quickest times at the splits by going as hard as he could during Sunday’s final.

“When I get into some sections, like the woods, I back off to be smooth and to nail a really good line. But then out in the open, I have to push a lot harder. I do ride conservatively so I find if I am really on edge then I ride at a good pace. Fitness has never been a problem for me because this is what I train for. You never really save energy on a downhill run because you are pushing all the time,” he said.

The anxious moments in the hot seat while watching 17 riders descend the track with the sole objective of knocking him off is not one of Minnaar’s favourite positions to be in. “It is horrible. I’d rather try and have a better qualifier so that I don’t have to sit for that long. But then again I’d rather be in the hot seat than in the crowd watching, to be honest. When you come down early, you almost expect to go into the hot seat – that is the aim. But to try and hold it is nerve wracking!”

One crucial adjustment to Minnaar’s XXL Santa Cruz V10cc bike in the lead up to his historic race was that of his handlebar, with the new Minnaar Bar from ENVE. “That was the biggest change and we changed the cockpit quite a bit to make the bars fit. The bars really helped my hands and wrists out after having both thumbs operated on; I really take strain with that.

“We did some suspension stuff as well, and although in Lourdes we went a little backwards, we pulled ourselves back on track in Australia and I had an unfortunate mechanical in the final, which didn’t help us. But then we went back into testing and really built the bike up around that. Going into Fort William, we made one adjustment to the rear shock and then went back to the standard set up. Our test sessions have been key to get a good result,” he said.

Minnaar’s South African fans, and fans the world over, will sit glued to their screens for this Sunday’s fourth round of the 2016 UCI MTB World Cup Series where the Downhill race takes place in what appears to be a muddy Leogang in Austria.

THE SYNDICATE – Episode 8 – World Championships Andorra

No regrets for Minnaar after going “all-in”

South African downhill hero, Greg Minnaar claimed the fourth overall spot despite coming off his bike in the last round of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Val di Sole, Italy on Saturday 22 August 2015.

Photo: After a hand operation earlier this year left him unsure of his World Cup season, South Africa’s Greg Minnaar (far left) was happy to claim the overall fourth position in the 2015 UCI MTB World Cup DHI Series presented by Shimano. Photo: www.uci.ch.

South African downhill hero, Greg Minnaar claimed the fourth overall spot despite coming off his bike in the last round of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Val di Sole, Italy on Saturday 22 August 2015.

Lying second overall in the season’s points before the start of the race, Minnaar knew that he had to give it his all going in. This however, unfortunately ended in a crash which saw him finish 54th on the day. “I ended up fourth overall in the World Cup Series. But to me, fourth, second, third is all the same,” he said.

 

After a hand operation earlier this year left him unsure of his World Cup season, South Africa’s Greg Minnaar (far left) was happy to claim the overall fourth position in the 2015 UCI MTB World Cup DHI Series presented by Shimano. Photo: www.uci.ch.

 

The Val di Sole gold medal went to Specialized Racing’s Aaron Gwin (USA), (who claimed the overall cup series title) ahead of the Lapierre Gravity Republic rider and young Frenchman, Loic Bruni (whose overall position was also second), followed by third place on the day and in the cup series overall, Specialized Racing’s Troy Brosnan (AUS).

 

The three-time World Champion was more than happy with his overall result, having been very doubtful about his own form going into the series. “Considering I started off with my hand injury and not being able to gather too many points in the first round, I was just stoked to be in that position. So for me to be in second and have a shot at first I had to go all in and put the pressure on Gwinnie in that final race. Unfortunately I couldn’t really deliver, but I think I would be more disappointed getting down with a smoother run and still be second overall than not saying I absolutely gave my all. It’s a tough one, but I went for it and unfortunately it unravelled the way that it did.”

 

The 33-year-old Santa-Cruz Syndicate rider will now spend a week in France testing with his team before friends from his home country fly over to join him and support his World Champs run in Andorra.

 

“It’s going to be an epic two weeks. Yeah there is a lot of pressure going into World Champs, especially with all my mates coming in. That always adds some pressure, but I don’t mind that kind of pressure,” he said.

 

Minnaar is confident with his preparations so far, and looks forward to exciting action in Andorra. “I think the testing that we’ve done there earlier this year is definitely going to be helpful. We’ve already set up the bike, we’ve had a good test on the track, and we know what it’s all about. We just have to go there and do the best we can. It’s been a great season for me. Everything’s fallen into place. Now we need to do this testing and hopefully that will give us just a little bit more out of what we are wanting to achieve so that we can go into Worlds and just give it our best again. I think the combination of going all in and the way that I normally ride is going to be the key to having a great result in Andorra. So let’s just hold thumbs and go for it.”

Minnaar continues to shine

The world’s most successful downhiller of all time, Greg Minnaar, explains that he is having the most “amazing time” on his bike, and the sheer joy of feeling the perfect fit with his bike is delivering top results that are speaking volumes for the three-times World Champion!

The world’s most successful downhiller of all time, Greg Minnaar, explains that he is having the most “amazing time” on his bike, and the sheer joy of feeling the perfect fit with his bike is delivering top results that are speaking volumes for the three-times World Champion!

In Windham, USA, at the weekend, Minnaar raked up yet another World Cup career podium with a second place, making it two weekends back-to-back in the Americas where he added to his podium tally after a fourth place in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, the weekend before.

In both instances however, Minnaar felt far from ready. Concussion and an injured hand from a crash in the morning of the Mont Sainte Anne race had dented his confidence then, and the injury carried through to the Windham race where he did not feel comfortable at all.

Minnaar said that practice in Windham was tough and the rough and dusty track meant that there was no respite.

“My hand was not ideal and I was battling to hold the bar,” said Minnaar. “I wanted to get my line sorted by just taking it easy and save my hand a little bit for the final, which wasn’t the case. I just had to ride hard the whole week. You had to push it really hard in every run to sit on top of the bumps.”

Going into the race, Minnaar wasn’t feeling comfortable, especially since it was a track where he hasn’t done well on before. “I was very chuffed with that result, it was a great result for me on that [Windham] track.

“The only thing that gave me confidence is that I’m having an amazing time on my bike. My bike is fitting me well this year, I mean, everything feels right. The morning of the race I had another crash because I had switched my tyres from mud tyres to dry tyres. This meant that I washed out at the top of the track. In the final, I took it a little easier on top, which is where I lost time on Gwin. It is such a short track that you have to ride 110% the whole way down. I just wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to push it to the limits like Gwinnie did. But what an incredible ride he put together.”

Minnaar heads off to Europe where he will take a short break to rest and recover before the all-important final round of the World Cup Series in Italy, where he will make a full attempt of claiming the World Cup Championship title. He will then go through a week of training ahead of the World Championships in Andorra.

“I’m not sure where I am in points but I think I might have a shot at Gwinnie [for the overall World Cup Championship]. If not, I’m going to give it my best shot anyway; you never know what will happen in downhill racing. I’m really chuffed with how the season has gone. For me being in second place in the series when I basically should’ve missed the first round because of injury… It’s been an incredible year. I’m looking forward to Italy and Andorra now.”

Great heights for SA Cycling

The South African public once again felt immense pride from the successes of the country’s cyclists abroad across multiple disciplines at the weekend.

The South African public once again felt immense pride from the successes of the country’s cyclists abroad across multiple disciplines at the weekend.

Three-time World Champion, Greg Minnaar, claimed his 18th World Cup victory in his 18-year career and set his name in the record books as the most successful downhill cyclist ever at the fourth round of the 2015 UCI MTB World Cup presented by Shimano in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Saturday 3 July.

Extremely hot and dry conditions didn’t seem to bother Santa Cruz Syndicate rider who put in a smooth run to cruise to victory in the Elite Men’s final. “I think the conditions played a huge part, being so rough and tricky,” he said in the post-race interview. “I’m stoked to win my 18th World Cup, just a bit overwhelmed, really. I just tried to be safe everywhere and carry speed where I could. I knew it was going to be super close and I didn’t think I had it in me, but the team put in a big effort with bike testing all week and it paid off.”

Minnaar has achieved 65 World Cup podiums from 108 starts and three World Cup overall titles together with his three World Championship titles.

Sunday 4 July saw some of the world’s greatest XCO riders compete in extreme temperatures and dusty conditions in the XCO World Cup. The morning started off with the U23 Men’s event, with over 100 riders competing. Kargo Pro MTB Team’s Alan Hatherly landed himself in 17th place, a fantastic and very promising achievement for the 19-year-old SA MTB Cup Series winner. The Elite Women’s event saw Novus OMX Pro Team rider, Cherie Vale got herself a top 40 position (36th after 6 laps).

The Elite Men’s race saw Rourke Croeser set off with a good pace, getting up to 23rdplace in his first lap, but he suffered two punctures and was pulled off the track with four laps to go. Team RECM’s James Reid claimed a top 40 spot, finishing 39th.

Bigla Pro Team Cycling Team’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who is currently competing in the Giro Rosa in Italy, the most important race in the women’s cycling calendar, sprinted to third in the second stage of the race on Sunday. Sunday’s results, along with her top ten position in the time trial the day before, have secured Moolman-Pasio in third place in the race’s General Classification.

Stage one of the Tour de France kicked off with Individual Time Trial on Saturday. The world watched as Team MTN-Qhubeka powered by Samsung’s Daniel Teklehaimanot was the first rider to start the 102nd edition of the prestigious stage race.

Teammate Stephen Cummings (GBR) claimed the 10th position in the Time Trial, securing the team a top-ten placing. Stage two on Sunday saw treacherous windy and wet conditions, however MTN-Qhubeka’s Tyler Farrar (USA) managed to secure the 25th spot.

In the Tour of Austria, Gerald Ciolek claimed a third place in the second stage, securing a stage podium for Team MTN-Qhubeka.

South African riders and teams have continued to make their families, fans and the nation proud with their spectacular achievements. Cycling South Africa congratulates all cyclists and looks forwards to more promising cycling accomplishments throughout the rest of the season.

Minnaar keen to “give World Cup a bash” despite injury

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano (DHI #1) takes place in Lourdes, France from 11-12 April 2015. Three-times World Champ and multiple World Cup winner, Greg Minnaar is eager to race this weekend, despite his recent injury.

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano (DHI #1) takes place in Lourdes, France from 11-12 April 2015. Three-times World Champ and multiple World Cup winner, Greg Minnaar is eager to race this weekend, despite his recent injury.

The Santa Cruz Syndicate rider recently suffered an injury to his hand during a DHI practice in New Zealand, which required an operation and four to six weeks of recovery time.

 Three-times World Champ and multiple World Cup winner, Greg Minnaar is eager to race at The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano (DHI #1) which takes place in Lourdes, France from 11-12 April 2015Photo: Kathy Sessler/Satna Cruz Syndicate.

“Its called a Stener Lesion – where the tendon tears away from the bone and cannot re-attach itself. This means that an operation is required to pin it back to the bone, ” he said.

“I was riding a track with downhill and enduro sections. I came to a section where there was a single track climb, and must’ve hit a stump awkwardly or something. I didn’t feel anything straight away, but I heard it,” he added.

Minnaar had also been doing some bike testing in Europe, earlier this month.

“I went to Spain and did some great testing over there. I’m very happy with my new bike, its very comfortable, and quite a bit bigger than my old bike. I think, being a tall person, a lengthy bike is just what I need. I feel that this bike really is going to help me out this season,” he said.

Minnaar then heads off as a Riders Representative to the UCI. “I get to speak as a rider, and also just listen in on past happenings and future plans. I also get to give riders a say about what happens on our side,” he said.

 The Santa Cruz Syndicate rider recently suffered an injury to his hand during a DHI practice in New Zealand, but is eager to race in the World Cup this coming weekend. Photo: Kathy Sessler/Satna Cruz Syndicate.

Minnaar isn’t feeling the greatest about the race, but is still keen to get back on the bike.

“Look, everybody will have a bad race every once and a while, and I have accepted and come to terms with the fact that this one could be one of mine,” he said.

“I was given a custom cast to wear that I am able to hold my bike with, so it should help a lot. As long as I can give it a bash and grab a couple of points then I’m happy. I don’t even know if I can actually ride yet, so this will be a great test,” he added.

“I’ve been told that I have to be in a cast for four to six weeks. Thursday makes it only 2 weeks since the operation, so the practice round this weekend will make it the first time back on my bike since the injury,” he said.

Minnaar is away for the UCI MTB World Cup season, and plans to be back on home soil again in November.

Minnaar to race 100th UCI World Cup at the Fort

South African downhill icon and current World Champion, Greg Minnaar, will be racing his 100th UCI World Cup this weekend at Fort William in Scotland, on 8 June 2014.

South African downhill icon and current World Champion, Greg Minnaar, will be racing his 100th UCI World Cup this weekend at Fort William in Scotland, on 8 June 2014.

Minnaar’s illustrious downhill racing career has dubbed him as one of the most consistent riders on the world circuit. This feat goes without saying, as Minnaar’s accolades include 3 World Championship titles, 16 Downhill World Cup victories and 61 Downhill World Cup podiums from 99 starts in his 14-year career. Minnaar has nine Downhill World Champion medals in total – 3 x gold, 3 x silver and 3 x bronze.

Fort William has always felt like Minnaar’s home away from home over the years. Since he began his professional career in the United Kingdom, it is somewhat fitting that his 100th World Cup event is taking place at the Fort. “The only venue that could be more special racing my 100th World Cup would be Pietermaritzburg. So yes, I’m excited for it.”

When asked about his most memorable World Cup race in his career, Minnaar says: “That’s a hard one to answer, but I would have to go with my first World Cup win at home in Pietermaritzburg in 2009. There is no better feeling than winning at home.”

Not only have the downhill courses become more technical and creative over the years, but so too has the equipment. “Technology has progressed a lot!” says Minnaar. “It’s gotten more professional over the years and we have been pushing the boundaries of technology. It’s kinda cool to see the directions technology was going, then making a drastic turn and going a completely different direction.”

On behalf of Cycling South Africa and the entire South African cycling community, we wish Greg all the very best for his 100th UCI World Cup this weekend!

View Greg Minnaar’s list of career achievements here.