Minnaar strong as always

2014-04-12 00:00

AMERICAN Aaron Gwin will be the first cyclist out of the blocks for today’s elite men’s downhill final after clocking the fastest time in yesterday’s UCI MTB World Cup qualifying session at Cascades MTB Park.

Pietermaritzburg’s favourite son and downhill world champion Greg Minnaar finished in third place, behind Santa Cruz Syndicate teammate Josh Bryceland from Great Britain who was in second place.

Minnaar, who told Weekend Witness he knew he came into the season on the back foot after undergoing surgery to his knee, was looking forward to the final, which will be at 2 pm this afternoon.

“I feel good. I knew I was coming into the season on the back foot, but I feel good and I feel like I can pull something here,” Minnaar said yesterday. “It’s going to be a hard race tomorrow. I’ve just dropped to third overall, but I need to make some time up top.”

The champ has just returned to the track following knee surgery last year.

“It’s good [the knee]. I just try my best to go out there and you can’t really focus on the knee, but it’s been alright so far,” he said.

The downhill track has seen some changes since Minnaar last competed on it, and he felt the extra rock gardens, particularly around Cloud Nine, made the course technical towards the top, slowing it down a bit.

“That makes it tricky. You hold off at the top and you’re not going to win the race. You need to attack the top as much as possible even though it’s more technical,” said Minnaar.

Pietermaritzburg’s other downhiller, Tiaan Odendaal, was the next best placed South African, qualifying in 34th, followed by Stefan Garlicki in 40th, Andrew Neethling in 48th and a number of others.

While world number two Gee Atherton qualified in 15th, his sister and women’s world champion Rachel didn’t go flat out as she finished the day in second place behind fellow Brit Manon Carpenter.

Jonathan Philogene was the best ranked South African amongst the juniors in 13th place, while Gregg Brown’s bad luck continued as he suffered torn ligaments in his shoulder during Thursday’s practice.

Qualifying round top 10 Men elite: 1. Aaron Gwin (USA). 2. Josh Bryceland (GBR). 3. Greg Minnaar (RSA). 4. Loic Bruni (FRA). 5. Samuel Blenkinsop (NZL). 6. Troy Brosnan (AUS). 7. Neko Mulally (USA). 8. Nick Beer (SUI). 9. Samuel Hull (AUS). 10. Dale Sam (GBR)

Qualifying round top 5 Women: 1. Manon Carpenter (GBR). 2. Rachel Atherton (GBR). 3. Emmeline Ragot (FRA). 4. Jill Kinther (USA). 5. Tracey Hannah (AUS)

Qualifying round top 5 Men juniors: 1. Luca Shaw (USA). 2. Loris Vergier (FRA). 3. Taylr Vernon (GBR). 4. Aiden Varley (AUS). 5. Thibault Laly (FRA).

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