14 July 2005
South African downhill mountain bike racer Greg Minnaar has won his second world title with two races in hand, making him the third most successful rider in the history of this relatively new sport.
With two races still to go in the World Cup Downhill Mountain Bike Series, the Team G Cross Honda rider wrapped up the overall title by winning for the third time in round six in Angel Fire, New Mexico to put the title out of reach of his nearest challengers.
It was Minnaar’s tightest win of the season, by just 0.22 seconds over Australia’s Jared Graves, who is recognised for being exceptionally fast on high altitude courses.
The win lifted Minnaar more than 500 points clear of his nearest challenger in the overall standings, cementing the title for the South African ace. It is his second title, his first having come in 2003.
This time around, though, the 23-year-old’s performance has been dominating.
Third most successful rider in history
Minnaar, who signed with Honda for the new season, spearheaded the team to a world title in the team’s first season.
His heroics have also already made him the third most successful rider in the history of the World Cup, behind Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz and British cyclist Steve Peat.
Speaking on the team’s website after clinching the title, Minnaar said: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I can’t believe it.
“I knew there was a chance of taking the overall today, but I didn’t want to have that distract me, so I just focused on trying to get the best points possible by having a strong result.
‘Really hammered down the bottom’
“In the top section of the final I wasn’t as quick as I would have liked, so I really hammered down the bottom to make up the time,” Minnaar said.
“I just want to thank the team, management, mechanics, Showa, Alpinestars and Formula Brakes, and all the support from Honda in Japan. It’s truly a team effort that ensures my bike is reliable every race, week in week out.”
Team G Cross Honda director Martin Whitely was full of praise for his humble star: “Extraordinary performance by Greg today,” he said.
“This is a great result for the team and all of our loyal sponsors who have believed in Team G Cross Honda and our riders from the start. We are truly appreciative to have the World Cup title safely in our hands.”
At Angel Fire, Minnaar opened with the fourth-fastest time in timed training, despite a stop on the route down the long course, which started at a heady 2 930 metres altitude.
In the semi-finals he held back a little so that he could give it his all in the final. The Pietermaritzburg native was also assisted when his nearest rival Nathan Rennie injured an ankle, which saw him finish behind Minnaar in the semis and fall a further 32 points adrift of him.
Jared Graves was fastest in the semi-finals, finishing 2.29 seconds ahead of Minnaar, but the South African star was left needing only a further 71 points in the final to clinch his second world title.
In the final, Minnaar showed he meant business by bettering the time of the long-time pace-setter Chris Kovarik by almost five seconds, but the semi-finals’ fastest man Jared Graves was still to come.
At the interval, Graves led the South African by 0.49 seconds. Heading into the lower section of the course, it was clear that it would be a very close finish, but after Graves blasted across the finishing line the stopwatches confirmed that Minnaar had won by just more than a fifth-of-a-second.
He was once again, in emphatic fashion this time, world champion.