8 April 2014
Having previously excelled at Cascades MTB Park, Australian downhill racing siblings, Mick and Tracey Hannah, are hoping to make history by winning the men’s and women’s titles at the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, which gets under way in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Friday.
South Africa’s Greg Minnaar edged out Mick for the title at the 2013 UCI MTB and Trials World Championships in Pietermaritzburg last year, and Hannah has been hard at work in the off-season in an attempt to get himself back to the summit of his discipline. With Minnaar competing, but working his way back from knee surgery, a golden opportunity awaits the quietly spoken Aussie.
‘We’re giving ourselves a good chance’
“Going into the season, I have changed my training a little this year,” the Hutchinson UR Team rider said in a statement on Monday. “So far I’m really happy with the results, but I never know until the first race. Also, we have done a lot of work with the bike, so I think we’re giving ourselves a good chance to do well this year.”
Hannah has twice placed second in Pietermaritzburg, both times behind Minnaar, in the 2009 World Cup leg and then again at the World Championships seven months ago. With good knowledge of the course and a fondness for the unique layout, his chances of going one better in 2014 seem bright.
‘It’s fast and fun’
“I really enjoy riding the Cascades course,” he enthused. “It’s fast and fun. It’s definitely physically demanding as well. I think it’s an exciting venue.
“I have done well here consistently. I really enjoy the high speed courses and here you need a lot of power, which is a strength of mine,” he added.
“Getting a good start to the season is very important for me. As I said before, I would love to win. Firstly, because of my history in Pietermaritzburg, but also because the second round is at home in Cairns, and I would love to start there with the leader’s jersey.”
Tracey Hannah rode to a memorable victory in Pietermaritzburg in 2012, but was unable to repeat her feat in 2013, when British rider Rachel Atherton produced a near flawless display to claim the world champion’s rainbow-striped jersey.
Hannah has been plagued by injury in recent times, but she heads into the Pietermaritzburg World Cup with a clean bill of health.
“I’ve had probably the best off season I’ve ever had,” she said. “In the past I’ve had injuries, but this season has been clean and I’m feeling fit and fast with no injuries.”
‘It’s a really great track’
She said was looking forward to the unique challenges posed by the Cascades downhill course. “I think it’s a really great track. I love the speed and the jumps and it’s super fun to ride and hard to race. It’s usually slippery and dusty, so the bike gets loose, but I just love the speed of the track and the way it’s built to flow.
“The most original thing about Cascades must be the people, the atmosphere. It’s very different to say Europe or anywhere,” she smiled.
“I’d love to win it again, but my goal this season is to be consistent without injury.
“I’d say getting a good start to the season is very important, but all my eggs aren’t in the Pietermaritzburg basket. I just hope to do my best race and I’ll be happy with that.”