A 17TH place finish at the second round of the UCI World Cup in Cairns, Australia, on Saturday was not what South African downhill MTB legend Greg Minnaar was hoping for, but he will take some confidence into the next two rounds of competition in about a month’s time.
The flying Frenchman Loic Bruni, who was crowned world champion last year, added his first World Cup win in Cairns, holding off the Australian duo of Troy Brosnan and Mick Hannah for the title, with Aaron Gwin, the winner at round one in Lourdes, France, coming home in fourth place.
The result was disappointing, but Minnaar told The Witness from Cairns yesterday that he and his Santa Cruz Syndicate team had taken some important steps forward.
“It was tough. Again, we had a lot of changing conditions. All in all, it was cool. On Saturday morning, I finally felt really comfortable with my set-up,” he reckoned.
“We made big changes on Friday night, going into Saturday’s final training session. We changed the whole rear shock. I felt it was a really good move. It gave me the control and the stability I needed in the bike. I think that was lacking at Lourdes.”
Minnaar appeared ready to make his mark in the final, with the track having dried since being wet for qualifying, but a technical problem set him back. He explained: “Come my race run, I’m rolling into the gate and my back brake wasn’t biting. I spoke to my mechanic, Jason Marsh, and asked him if the new brake pads were not scrubbed in. He said no, I had been using them in practice.
“I pushed my bike back up the hill out of the start gate and then rolled back down, trying to scrub them in a bit. Maybe there was a bit of contamination from soap or something from the wash. Anyway, I didn’t think anything of it, and I thought maybe the power would come in.”
The three-time overall World Cup winner powered out of the gate, but overshot the first corner slightly because he didn’t have brake control. “I ended up having to pinch the second corner. I finally got my rhythm going up top in the corners, but I had to just drag my brake the whole way down, so I was riding hesitantly again,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s not a great start to the season. It is basically my fourth race run, if you include the qualifying. I’ve just had terrible results. In the qualifying here, I crashed, and I crashed at Lourdes.”
Minnaar admitted he could not recall struggling as much for a good result early in a season, but the next two tracks that await should help him set the record straight. Round three takes place at Fort William in the United Kingdom, where Minnaar’s record is literally second to none. A week later the action moves to Leogang in Austria, where the Maritzburg man won his second world title in 2012 and also claimed a World Cup win in 2010 to go with a number of podiums there.
“I want to make sure everything is right,” Minnaar said. “We’re going to go and do some testing and make sure that we are 120 percent ready for Fort William. We’ve taken some steps forward this week, and I look forward to getting back to where I am used to being.”