‘No home-grown advantage’ for local cyclists at MTB World Cup

2009-04-03 00:00

One would expect local competitors in this year’s Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup to gain comfort from the fact the competition will be held “in [their] own backyard”.

However, after speaking to mountain biking world champ Greg Minnaar, and KZN’s number one cross-country cyclist, Craig Paul, Weekend Witness found that this is clearly not the case.

“I don’t think it gives me an advantage, a lot of the provincial riders know the track. Apart from that, international riders have time to practise from this weekend at nationals until the actual race,” said Minnaar. “So mentally and physically, international guys are at every bit of an advantage.”

The three-time world champ said he’s been in training since December, but added that he didn’t want to spend too much time on the official course because he likes the nervousness that comes with riding a new track.

“I like it fresh,” he said. “When you’re too familiar with a track it slows you down … Also, for downhill races, the track keeps changing and developing, so you can’t exactly master it.”

Paul, who’s been racing for 10 years now, shares Minnaar’s sentiment about not having a “home-ground advantage” at the world cup, despite the nationals being hosted at the venue this weekend. “We might have an advantage at nationals, but in terms of the technicalities, not really.”

Paul did however say the fact that “friends and family, and everyone will all be shouting for you and not for the other guy” is a boost to morale.

Minnaar, who’s been racing professionally for eight years, said it’s ironic that people assume he would be more comfortable riding at home. “It’s more nerve-wracking because it’s a home race,” he said. “I’m never at home, I race more overseas. So it’s the opposite for me … home is the foreign place that I’m not used to riding.”

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