The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup concluded on Sunday with the downhill race, and there was reason to celebrate as Gee Atherton scored forth in his first race in new GT team colours and the young Manon Carpenter stamped her place at the top with a resounding second place finish.
In the men’s race, where many thought 2011 overall winner Aaron Gwin would win, local rider Greg Minnaar (and 2009 winner in Pietermaritzburg ) beat Gwin to the top step of the podium in one of the closest battles we’ve seen in a long time. After Gwin set the fastest time and Minnaar was over two seconds behind at the first time check, it looked like the race was over.
However, the ‘Greg Minnaar Nation’ was cheering their hero on, and the Pietermaritzburg rider made up the time deficit in the lower half of the course to win by over six-tenths of a second.
“I knew at the top I was behind,” admitted Minnaar. “I made two stupid mistakes at the beginning, so I knew had to make up as much as I could down at the bottom. As much pain as it was to pedal, I just had to put my head down and go.”
“Oh man, it was electric, hearing the crowd at the bottom, it was so wild. I could have done with some more support further up on the pedalling bit when I wanted to sit down, but there was no one there, they were all down at the bottom. But when I jumped into the finishing area the crowd was just amazing.”
In the women’s race Mick Hannah’s sister, Tracy, returning to the sport after a four year absence, produced a dream start to her return with victory. She said: “It has always been my intention to come back, it just took a few years. This was more of a test race for me, to see where I was, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’m in pain, but it is good pain. I am so exhausted. I’m happy, and extremely satisfied. I just can’t believe it, it is so amazing.”
Meanwhile, one second behind and producing the best British finish, Manon Carpenter rocked to a splendid second place, a sure sign of her intentions on the overall this season.
1.Tracey Hannah (AUS) 4:33.806
2.Manon Carpenter (GBR) +0.949
3.Emmeline Ragot (FRA) +2.810
4.Jill Kintner +8.492
5.Miriam Ruchti (SUI) +10.896
6.Emilie Siegenthaler (SUI) +11.402
7.Anita Molcik (AUT) +12.123
8.Luana Maria de Souza Oliviera (BRA) +14.385
9.Petra Bernhard (AUT) +15.112
10.Myriam Nicole (FRA) +17.275
1.Greg Minnaar 3:57.980
2.Aaron Gwin +0.632
3.Michael Hannah +0.994
4.Gee Atherton +1.303
5.Steve Smith +4.384
6.Jared Graves +4.436
7.Andrew Neethling +4.800
8.Troy Brosnan +5.017
9.Julien Camellini +5.604
10.Cédric Gracia +5.674