Pietermaritzburg - Fresh off a win at Fort William, Pietermaritzburg’s Greg Minnaar placed fifth in the UCI Downhill World Cup in Leogang on Sunday on a tricky track that featured both wet and dry sections.
"It was tough," the three-time overall World Cup champion told The Witness from Austria on Monday.
"On Sunday morning we rode the track and it was wet and cold. We were gearing up to ride our final and I spoke to my team-mate Steve [Peat] and he said it’s bone dry, so we changed the tyres, changed the set-up a little bit, lowered the front end and off we went."
The South African star qualified in fifth and claimed the same place, but it looked as if he was on his way to better things went he went through the midway point on the course narrowly behind the time split of Troy Brosnan, who was on the hot seat at the time.
"We had a good race. It was cool. I got through to the woods and I heard this loud bang, and we are not sure what it was, but the handling of the bike altered," Minnaar said.
That much was clear to see as Minnaar became unusually ragged, having to take his feet off the pedals on a number of occasions and plant them on the ground to prevent a fall.
Over the first half, he had ridden with his trademark smooth style, but the second half was not what has made him the most successful World Cup racer of all time.
"I kept losing the front end and the back kept sagging. I’m not sure what it was, but it definitely spooked me a little, so I am disappointed with fifth, knowing that my bottom half could have been quite a bit better," he added.
The fact of the matter, though, was that the winner, Aaron Gwin, put together an immaculate run, which made him a deserving winner.
"To watch Aaron Gwin come down there, I don’t think even if I felt my bike was handling 100% I would have held that pace," Minnaar admitted.
In 2015 in Leogang, the American ace recorded a stunning victory, even though he snapped his chain only metres from the start, and his mastery of the course was clear once again in the manner in which he was able to hold his momentum through all parts of the track.
His winning time was 3:28.686, comfortably clear of second placed Frenchman Loris Vergier’s 3:31.817, with third going to Troy Brosnan of Australia in 3:32.804. Great Britain’s Danny Hart, the 2011 world champion, took fourth in 3:34.055, with Minnaar ending in fifth in 3:35.165.
His fifth place helped lift him one place in the overall standings to fourth, on 462 points. Gwin is way out in front on 810, followed by Brosnan on 650 and Hart on 518.
"I am happy. I’ve got a bit of a break now and it’s just going to be some hard training and getting ready for Lenzerheide [Switzerland] and Mont Sainte-Anne [Canada]," Minnaar said, looking ahead.
He was travelling back to San Francisco, the home of the Santa Cruz Syndicate on Monday.
"Back to hard work, I guess," he ended.