10 July 2013
South Africa’s Greg Minnaar, the defending mountain bike downhill world champion, has started the 2013 international season that will ultimately lead to the world championships in his hometown, eager to test his new equipment, avoid pressure and gradually build up to his title defence at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg in August.
After a disappointing opening round of the UCI World Cup series, he returned to better form for the second round before heading to Val d’Allos where he made the podium in the Enduro World Series race, and grabbed a stage win.
“I feel more on track now,” Minnaar said this week. “The season started a little too steady for my liking. Round two of the World Cup went a lot better for me. Then we went to Val d’Allos, where I finished third overall and got my first stage win. I was pretty stoked with that.”
While enduro races may seem something of a diversion for the downhill supremo, they have provided a release and an opportunity to work on his rhythm.
“Enduro is something I’ve always liked and now that they have formed a World Series it makes sense for me to ride,” he said.
Minnaar and his Santa Cruz Syndicate team have also finished another round of equipment testing before the resumption of the World Cup circuit.
“We’ve just finished a week of testing in the South of France,” he explained. “We want to make sure where we are for the next couple of World Cups before we head to World Championships. My trainer Stephane Girrard knows me well, and we will enter the World Champs in the right condition.”
Minnaar has a firm plan in place for the lead up to the World Championships at the Cascades downhill course that he knows well. He is, however, a believer in not over-training on the course so that he can stay fresh.
“I know the area well as I have grown up and live not far from the Cascades,” said Minnaar. “We have enough practice time during the event to test out whatever changes have been made to the track.
‘So much pressure’
“It’s tough leading in to this event. There is so much pressure and everyone wants a piece of you,” he added. “In previous years, I’ve actually left town for the weeks leading in to the event.
“I’ll definitely be laying low again. I will be home a couple of weeks prior to World Champs, so I’ll be able to have a look at the changes to the course then.”
For Minnaar dealing with the pressure is a critical element of managing his own goals and meeting the massive weight of public expectation on him.
“That’s the pressure I’m going to have to deal with,” he laughed. “It’s okay. I know how to race under pressure. The only option I have is to ride off the pressure.”
Minnaar has previously twice won the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill in Pietermaritzburg. He finished second on the other occasion the event has taken place in the city.
The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships take place at Cascades MTB park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from 21 to 25 August.