World champ to return for MTB World Cup opener

26 March 2014

After undergoing surgery on his left knee late in 2013, three-time MTB downhill world champion Greg Minnaar returns to the UCI World Cup circuit at the Cascades MTB Park in his home town of Pietermaritzburg from 11 to 13 April.

Minnaar, a legend of downhill racing, will be the star attraction at the season- opening event, especially considering his superb record on the Cascades MTB Park downhill track, which includes two World Cup victories, a runner-up finish, and a successful defence of his world champion’s title last year.

Minnaar, who splits his time equally between his base in Pietermaritzburg and San Francisco, is happy to be competing in front of family and friends again.

‘Always important to me’

“Being home and competing at home is always great and being ready to race here is always important for me,” the Santa Cruz Syndicate star said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I always want to do as well as I can for my friends and family that are watching and I’m working as hard as I can to be ready for the World Cup this year.”

After his knee operation, Minnaar spent a long time off of his bike, but he nonetheless made a winning return to competition when he won the first leg of the SA MTB Cup Series at Cascades two weeks ago. He admitted afterwards, however, that he is not yet feeling in the kind of shape he needs to be in to be competitive in the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg.

Pressure

“I feel that there is always a bit of pressure on me when I race at home, but I think that the majority of the pressure comes from myself, and always wanting to perform well at home adds that little bit of tension,” he explained.

“Knowing that I am not going to be 100 percent for the first half of the season is never ideal, but I will be trying my hardest at home.”

Rehabilitation

It has been a long road to recovery for the downhill great, who has been working hard with physiotherapists and biokineticists in Pietermaritzburg to get him ready and riding in time for the start of the 2014 season.

“I have a great team of physios and bios here,” he said. “With some great gyms around, I have been working to get fit and being in training for six hours a day means that I have been going flat-out trying to prepare.

“Being back in my comfort zone here also means that I don’t have to drive anywhere to ride. It is one thing I can’t stand and in Pietermaritzburg I can just ride from home,” he added.

Goal

The 32-year-old Minnaar, who has more World Cup podium finishes than any other rider in history, is aiming to create more history. “I have set myself the goal to get two more World Cup wins because if I can get them then that means I will have won the most World Cup titles and that in itself is motivation enough to keep going,” he revealed.

“I have a plan that I am going to go for another five years, but we will just have to see.”

Big crowds expected

Thousands of cheering fans are expected to turn up for the event in mid-April and a warm, supportive crowd in Pietermaritzburg is something Minnaar is looking forward to.

“It is a really exciting event and you rarely see such emotion from other events when the riders come down the hill,” he enthused

“The event is also a whole day activity with people being able to walk up into the hills to watch some of the earlier guys riding at the top and then head down to the finish for the final few riders. Recently, after I got injured, I was able to be in the crowd myself and it really was quite special,” he concluded.

SAinfo reporter