Check inside for race reports from Specialized, United Ride, Santa Cruz Syndicate, Trek World Racing, and CRC / Nukeproof. Inside you can read their reports as well as see some of their team videos and pictures as well.
It has been a very dry and hot week in South Africa for the launch of the World Cup season. All the teams returned to the track that hosted the World Champs last autumn to find a quite different track up top with several new challenging rocky sections.
The Hutchinson UR team was already pinned straight from qualifying; Tracey qualified 5th, Aurélien Giordanengo 20th, Guillaume 27th and Fabien 56th. Fabien spent a good part of Friday at the hospital with a suspected broken shoulder due to a crash that was caused by a very unexpected mechanical. Luckily there were no broken bones so he decided to race qualifying despite the pain! Mick unfortunately had a mechanical in his run and cruised down. He is a protected rider and so would re-integrate the last 20 riders for finals.
For the finals, everyone was really eager to get down and see how their times would compare to the other riders on a track that was getting more and more treatcherous
Tracey had a clean run, gave it all she had and came in 6th, 13 seconds from the win.
Fabien had a clean finals run despite the pains he sustained from his crash and finished 58th. He will do more examination on his shoulder to see if no ligaments are damaged.
Guillaume had an excellent run that placed him on the hot-seat for quite a while. His final ranking was 18th which is his best WC result yet!
Aurélien, who was taken from the Polygon UR team to come and practice his DH skills in South Africa had a huge scare in his run on the 2nd bend. He nearly went over the bars and rode the frame a few meters! He then gave it all he had to get to the bottom, scoring an excellent time that would get him a final 15th spot On his new Polygon N9 enduro carbon bike!
Mick came down with 20 riders still to come. He rode the best he could and thrashed the bottom part of the course, finally putting in a stunning time of 4.01.381, 10 seconds ahead of Aurélien’s leading time and 4 seconds better than Gwins fastest qualifier time on Friday.
Then came the longest wait, to find out if Micks insane time could be beaten. Rider after rider would fail to beat Mick and only a few got close. One of the closest, Greg Minnar was only 1.8 seconds back despite his home crowd screaming at the top of their voices.
One man was left on the hill.. And to the teams biggest despair, Aaron Gwin had decided to make his big come-back to the top step of the podium, here in Pietermaritzburg. Gwin had a mind blowing run and clocked a 3.59.344, knocking Mick into second..
This is an excellent start to the season with Mick sitting in 3rd overall, Aurélien in 17th, Guillaume in 21st, Fabien in 58th and Tracey in 6th. The Hutchinson UR team is ranked 3rd with these excellent results!!
Next, the Polygon UR enduro team and Fabien goes to Chile for the first EWS. The rest of the Hutchinson team flies to Cairns for the next world cup in the Hannahs backyard!
Santa Cruz Syndicate
GREG MINNAAR GRABS THIRD AT WORLD CUP OPENER!!
April 12, 2014 Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
The UCI World Cup Downhill Series kicked off in the southern hemisphere in Greg Minnaar’s backyard inPietermaritzburg. Minnaar had only been on a downhill bike for five weeks since recovering from ACL reconstruction and meniscus surgery last October. He didn’t have any idea where his fitness would be leading into the race, but after a timed run, which was four seconds faster than the others, his curiosity about his chances turned to confidence. Josh and Steve were feeling strong, having just come off good performances at the first BDS round.
The first world cup is the marker for your winter training. Have you done enough? How do you rank with the others? Qualifier day would reveal the answers. Crack student Josh Bryceland astounded everyone with a smoking 2nd place qualifier with Greg on his heals in 3rd. Steve went steady for a 17th place qualifier. Josh was buzzing with his performance and eager for the race the next day. Greg knew he lost a lot of time in the first section (6 seconds to Josh!), so he was on the hunt in track walk to find some time.
Race day Mick Hannah came down early. He smashed out a time of 4:01.38 that held for dozens of riders. Steve set off and slid out in a corner in the first section and then steadily went faster in the sectors down the course and placed 16th. Mick’s time was holding and his danger men were coming. Greg was on course now with just Josh and Aaron Gwin left. Greg was up at the first split, and the second. With the crowd going mental Greg dug as deep as he could, yet he uncharacteristically lost time in the last sector to come within .7 seconds of Mick. Josh set off attacking the course and in the first rock garden hit a rock so hard it bent his chain ring. He rode the rest of the race chainless, whipping it up in style to please the fans and placed 43rd. Gwin came down and took the win, 2 seconds ahead of Mick and Greg.
Greg was pleased with his result and said, “I’ve been recovering from the knee injury and it will still take time to heal, so my right leg is overcompensating and is sore from the race. I didn’t expect to do as well as I did, but I’m really happy that I was 3rd!”
The next round of the World Cup takes place in Cairns, Australia where the 1996 World Championships were held. Steve will be the only downhill rider to have raced in 1996 and 2014!
Trek World Racing
photos: Matt Delorme
Striking yet another goal of his career check list, 21 year old Neko Mulally from Pennsylvania has backed up his 7th in qualifying here in Pietermaritzburg with his first ever World Cup Top Ten race result, 8th.
The controversial South African track sure produced some interesting results and the high speed slippery surface claimed one of its first victims on day 1 of training when Brook MacDonald had a massive crash that had him hitting a tree in the first rock garden section. After the team mechanics worked tirelessly to repair his beaten bike, Brook tried another training run but the damage to his left bicep was too severe to hang on in the rough sections. Unsure of whether he would qualify Brook managed to attempt his third run, the qualifier, and scraped through in 66th place. Overnight and after much treatment for his injury, Brook was able to get two runs in before the race, and finish in 35th place, a salvaged weekend.
Both George Brannigan and Greg Williamson showed good pace throughout the week but both felt their race runs were lacking a little. It was left for Neko’s three team mates to watch on as the American descended the 3km track and had the green light at the first split, more than a second up on Mick Hannah. In the middle sector Neko was at his limit and clocked the speed trap at 69km/h before getting to the finish line in 3rd, taking his spot on the hot seat.
Neko said: “It feels great to get this result and I’m already looking ahead to the next races and to build a consistent season. I rode this track as best as I could today, a bit loose and on the edge at times, but you have to here. I wouldn’t call this a favourite track of mine, but it’s one that takes a lot of work to do well. I’m really happy to carry the number 8 plate into Round 2”.
Team Director Martin Whiteley said: “The team is obviously very proud of Neko’s continued progression, something he’s shown unwaveringly since joining us in 2010. It was a frustrating week for Brook after his crash, but our goal was to work together to help him recover some points after looking doubtful for the race on Friday morning. Personally I feel this venue is done and dusted for DH racing. Most teams have been very supportive leading up to having the first World Championships on the African continent, but I feel it’s time to move on.”
Learn more about the 650b Session Neko runs
CRC / Nuke Proof
Sam Hill takes top-10 result for Team CRC/Nukeproof in Pietermaritzburg downhill World Cup
The Australian legend posts an impressive time on one of his least favourite tracks, in his first major race since injury at the end of last season.
It’s been a long wait, but the first round of the 2014 UCI Downhill World Cup took place in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, over the weekend where Team CRC/Nukeproof rider Sam Hill snatched a top-10 result on a track least favoured by the Australian flyer.
Team Manager Nigel Page was there to bring us this report:
As fans of Sam Hill, you probably won’t believe that he was really nervous coming into this race. The five-time World Champion finished off last year with a huge crash at the World Championships on this very track in Pietermaritzburg and then a really serious knee injury at the World Cup finals in Leogang. Sam only got on his downhill bike in the last couple of weeks but has been putting in the miles on his cross-country bike which shows with his new super-fit looking stature.
We chose a to ride a slackened out Nukeproof Mega AM bike equipped with an 180mm travel RockShox Boxxer fork because of the long pedal section on this track, and I think we made the right choice. The course designers made a great job of changing up the top section of the track making it into a proper gnarly downhill course which would have been great on the Nukeproof Pulse but for the overall track the modified Megas were on the money!
This is Sam’s least favourite track of the year so to come away with a ninth place on flat pedals is a fantastic start to his World Cup campaign! He now doesn’t need to be nervous and can unleash his full talent on the rest of the tracks. Well done mate we are all really stoked for you. Thanks for putting the work in.
Joe Smith finished in 51st this weekend which I know he was really disappointed with and not where he wanted to be to start of the World Cups, but we are not going to dwell on this, we are going to stay positive and work together as a team and help Joe get to where he should be, which is a lot higher up the rankings. Joe has more than enough speed and talent to be running with the top boys and we are going to turn it around for the next race two weeks’ time in Cairns, Australia.
Mike Jones; what can I say about this young talented lad from South Wales? It is an absolute pleasure to have him as part of our team. He is a wild lad on his bike with a ton of talent and pace, but on top of that he has a great attitude and is a ton of fun to have around. He is a great new team member with a big future in our sport.
Unfortunately Mike broke his metacarpal bone in his hand only three weeks ago and was looking like he would be out of action for a while. But he decided to cut off his cast this week and give it a go because he was so desperate to race and contribute to the team. There was no pressure on him to ride but we went along with his decision to give it a go. In the qualifier Mike was on pace to easily making it through to the finals when he rear flatted within 30 seconds of the finish line. He continued to charge on with his broken hand and flat back tyre when his tyreless rear wheel couldn’t handle the final big rock garden and that was the end of his run.
Mike walked into the finish area totally devastated to not make the finals in his first senior World Cup and first race for the team. But the way he turned it all around in only half an hour and was positive and helped out the other riders for their race was so impressive for a young lad and just showed he is such a great sportsman and asset to the team. It’s great to have Mike on board.
Thanks so much to Jacy and Julien who did an amazing job with keeping the bikes in mint condition all week and everything running calm and smooth and a huge thanks to all our sponsors for the best bikes and equipment we could wish for.
Also a huge thanks to Salva for his amazing work behind the lens capturing what the riders do and full commitment to his work all week late into the night. Great to have you with us mate.
Also, thanks so much to the Monster SA guys for hooking us up with tents, drinks, chairs and tables.
It was really good guys, and made us look pro. From here we move onto Cairns, Australia in two weeks’ time for round two and we are #onthehunt for that podium!