Some of the biggest names in mountain biking will use this weekend's fourth round of South Africa's national series as a warm-up for the UCI World Cup, which kicks off at the same venue in a week's time.
The entry list for the MTN National MTB Cup in Pietermaritzburg already includes top downhillers such as former world champion Fabien Barel (Subaru/Mondraker), former World Cup champion Tracy Moseley (Trek), Chris Kovarik (CRC/Intense), Julien Camellini (CRC/Intense) and Justin Leov (Trek).
“It’s going to be like a mini World Cup," said South African star Andrew Neethling (Trek), another of the big names on the start list. “I’ve just returned from two Maxxis Cup races in Europe where our team used the events to fine-tune our bike setup and sharpen our form ahead of the World Cup next week. Sunday’s race is another opportunity to sharpen and also get us familiar with the course.”
Neethling, the 2008 national champion, finished 11th overall in the 2008 World Cup and won the first two rounds of the MTN National Series in January and February.
More top local and international riders, including Australia’s two-time world champion and former World Cup winner Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized), are expected to join the entry list before the start of racing on Sunday.
South Africa’s top downhill racer, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who lives in Pietermaritzburg, has opted to sit out this weekend’s event, but will be primed to begin the defence of his World Cup title on the same course next week.
At 2.8km, the downhill course is relatively long, with a quick drop early on followed by a relatively mildly sloping section in the middle, which contains some jumps and tight turns, and then a fast plunge in the final third, incorporating the last 500 metres of the 4X course into the finish arena. The total descent is 368 metres.