Pietermaritzburg - Greg Minnaar opened his account in the 2016 UCI MTB Downhill World Cup with a less than satisfying 15th place finish in Lourdes, France, on the weekend and afterwards blamed himself for a below standard result.
Victory went to the USA’s Aaron Gwin, ahead of Canada’s Steve Smith and the UK’s Danny Hart.
Fastest qualifier Loic Bruni, the reigning world champion, flew down the course and was headed for his first World Cup victory, but crashed near the finish and had to settle for 14th place in the end.
"It was a really tough weekend. The conditions changed all the time, and going into the final it actually dried up for the run," Minnaar said after the race.
"It was super-hard. I just made a really poor decision with my suspension, tried to push through and make it work, instead of going back to settings that I had done earlier this year [in testing] in Portugal.
"It’s incredible how you can be so experienced, yet make such amateur mistakes. It’s just one of those things. I had to go back and really think about and analyse things."
The track was brutal, very slippery to start, then rough as it dried up, with rocks, roots and trees challenging the riders throughout. Physically, it asked a lot of the competitors.
With Minnaar coming off surgery on a thumb, it could have been a problem but, he said, he came out unscathed on that account.
"Physically I felt fine. I had a bit of a chest infection going in, but that didn’t really bother me in the race," said Minnaar.
"My hands felt good. I had good strength. My fitness is there, so everything is there. I just felt I made some poor decisions on my bike and that didn’t really allow me to attack like I should have."
The three-time world champion and three-time overall World Cup winner looked smooth on his run, but he dropped over two seconds to Amaury Pierron, who was on the hot seat at the time, in the first sector and was unable to bridge that gap.
"I felt I rode well, but I just couldn’t figure out how I lost so much time up the top," Minnaar reflected.
"Technically I felt super-good, and I carried good speed out of the technical sections. I seemed to ride the technical really well, watching the videos.
"To me that first split was key. Towards the bottom, I rode very conservatively and backed off a little bit as well, and, again, made some mistakes while doing that, so I wasn’t surprised to see my split slower in the bottom two sectors, but the first one really puzzled me."
An indication of the Pietermaritzburg local’s puzzlement came in his actions after the race, when he headed straight back up the hill to test out rear shocks and different settings on his Santz Cruz V10 bicycle.
"I think we found what the problem was," he said.
"This is racing, these things happen, so it’s back home tonight and test again all week and then head out to Australia on the weekend.
"I think we have come up with an answer, so onwards and upwards."
Minnaar will next be in action in Cairns in Australia on the weekend of April 23-24.