MTB Worlds 2012: Minnaar takes narrow victory in men's downhill

Atherton, Smith settle for medals

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

The men's race for the Downhill world title in Leogang, Austria, had a dozen strong contenders, and South Africa's Greg Minnaar took a that victory came down to the wire.

Australia's Bryn Atkinson set the first sub-3:30 time, with nearly 50 riders to go. Sam Dale (Great Britain) quickly took off three-tenths of a second and held the Hot Seat for 20 riders before he was replaced by Florent Payet (France), with a drop of two seconds in the lead time.

Australian Mick Hannah took the leading time below 3:24 with ten riders to go, but was immediately replaced by Canada's Steve Smith, who was bumped by Gee Atherton (Great Britain) with two riders left to finish. Minnaar came in next, half a second ahead of Atherton, but everyone knew that the final rider, American Aaron Gwin, could quite easily upset the standings. Gwin has won an incredible nine World Cups in 13 races over the past two seasons, so everyone was waiting to see what he could do.

However, it became apparent early in his run that Gwin was suffering mechanical problems, eventually finishing a distant 83rd, after his brakes, in the words of the team manager, 'exploded'. Minnaar jumped to his feet from the Hot Seat as he was mobbed by well wishers, ecstatic to win his second world title.

"It's been nine years and this run it, was tough," commented Minnaar. "I had a lot of pressure today, I was super nervous. To be honest, I tried to nail the top section and just after the bridge I lost a lot of speed, I had to pedal hard. But I held it together, in a way same as in the Pietermaritzburg World Cup earlier this season. I couldn't believe I crossed the line in first."

"I am a bit bummed for Gwinny, he seems to have had a mechanical, I am not sure what happened. It is not exactly the best way for me to win, or how I'd like to win, but we are all out there trying our best. We all have mechanicals from time to time, that's part of racing."

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