17 March 2014
Downhill world champion Greg Minnaar was victorious in his first race since undergoing a knee operation late last year when he captured the honours in his specialist event in the the opening round of Southern African MTB Cup Series at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on the weekend.
Minnaar is working hard to be ready for the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg, the opening round of the UCI MTB World Cup, which takes place from 11 to 13 April.
He posted a winning time of 3 minutes 17.631 seconds to finish 1.351 seconds ahead of Stefan Garlicki, with Sam Bull taking third, 2.572 seconds off the pace.
During the UCI Downhill World Cup Series in Leogang, Austria, in 2013, Minnaar injured his left knee when he bent it backwards and tore his anterior cruciate ligament and also suffered a lengthwise tear in his medial meniscus (knee cartilage) in a practice run.
Now, back in action, Minnaar admitted that he was not yet feeling 100 percent, but said he felt better than he had expected during the competition.
‘I’m always happy with a win’
“I’m always happy with a win,” the Santa Cruz Syndicate star said. “The guys have whipped up a really nice fresh track. They couldn’t avoid the middle pedal though. But it was still a fast track, still tough though.
“I think my fitness is good. I’m just lacking a bit of power, but that will come. Technically, I was okay, a bit rusty here and there, but it’s my first week back on a downhill bike after about six months, so it’s to be expected.
“The gate [start] was terrible, I lost a bit of time there, but once I was rolling up to speed, it felt fine.”
Garlicki was pleased with his run: “My run went very well. I couldn’t have done much more,” he said. “It’s tough when you’re racing the world champion. I mean, to be just over a second behind Greg. I know he’s coming off an injury but even so, I am very happy with that.”
Kathryn Fourie convincingly claimed the women’s convincingly, with a 30-second advantage over second-placed Kate Stephenson in 04:33.714, with Michane Viljoen taking third place.
In hot and humid conditions, Philip Buys picked up the men’s cross-country title and a valuable 60 UCI points, with Brendon Davids finishing in second place, 38 seconds behind him, and Rourke Croeser taking third, despite competing with an injured hand.
“It was great for Cycling South Africa to put on a UCI Category 1 event. I didn’t have to travel to Europe to gain these points, I just had to come to Pietermaritzburg and race on the World Cup track today. Sixty points is very valuable,” Buys said afterwards.
Mariska Strauss, riding for the Orange Monkey Pro Team, led from start to finish in the women’s race, romping to victory by almost eight minutes over Hayley Smith, with Kim Westbrook in third place.
The second round of the Southern African MTB Cup Series takes place at the Afriski Ski and Mountain Resort in Lesotho on 19 and 20 April.