Greg Minnaar and his Santa Cruz Syndicate teammates Steve Peat, Nathan Rennie and Josh Bryceland took over the podium at FortWilliam this afternoon with classy performances under the sun. The closest race in the World Cup so far produced high drama in a packed arena as one by one times tumbled.
In the tense closing stages it looked like a Brit would claim the perfect victory in front of a home crowd left hungry after the World Championship. First Steve Peat put together a great run, dislodging a surprise hot seat occupant – Nathan Rennie. Peat had no time to get comfy though as moments later Gee Atherton stole top spot and looked to make it his second consecutive World Cup win. But Minnaar, last man down and with the fastest semi final run was the on-form man of the week.
His trademark moto-style was on show through the final Nissan arch and the race face was on. The longest and most punishing course so far this year produced a big winning margin of three seconds and Minnaar was once more king of the Fort. Unfortunately his swordsmanship skills need a little brushing up on, especially when it comes to opening the celebratory champagne.
After the race Minnaar was hoping the win was a sign of things to come:
“I haven’t won a world cup for a while so hopefully this is the start of a new trend. When I jumped in I couldn’t hear as much noise as I did in the semi finals, so I thought I was down, I thought I really needed to pedal hard to get something. But over that last jump I could see my teammates celebrating and that was the first time I realised I had the fastest time.”
Gee Atherton was the top placed Brit, nudged into second by the flying South African but another solid result keeps his hopes of the overall alive.
“I was happy to stay upright out there today, the dry weather has made it so loose and gravely. There were mistakes, I was riding really loose today but that was the only way to do it. I’m pleased to be on form for the Worlds.”
Holding onto the leaders’ garment was left to Aussie Sam Hill, who has finished first, second and fourth [Fort William].
“Today went pretty good, fourth is on the podium which means I am still in the overall lead. I don’t think there’s any extra pressure with the lead though, I just want to keep hold of it for the rest of the season. And now we’ve got some time before
Mont St. Anne
to put in a bit of work. The Worlds are the main goal every year and the track there is really fun and I can have a good race there. The first three races this year have seen a different winner so it makes the racing unpredictable which is a whole new challenge.”
In just over a week we will find out if Hill can repeat his result in the Worlds test event, which would translate into another rainbow jersey and put him back on the list of men to fear in downhill racing.
Emphatic Moseley home win
Whereas in the men’s race there were two close-calls for the overall win, the women’s event saw a return to form for British national champion Tracy Moseley. After an average start to the season a return home gave Moseley the ideal opportunity to start fresh on a course that has been a favourite for many years now. In the past her victories have been on a very different course – wet, windy and damaged. The dusty, sandy track this weekend which was different in character than anything seen before was not expected to suit Moseley so well – in fact Sabrina Jonnier or Rachel Atherton were the preferred favourites for many.
But Moseley’s experience on such a long and physical course were her assets and she used them to exploit big time gaps across the course. Five seconds was the deficit at the end of the race to Jonnier and a jubilant Moseley took her lap of honour in front of a home crowd that powered her to another victory at the Fort.
“It’s amazing to get the season back on track, great for my confidence and good timing to get it in front of the home fans too. I’m definitely going quicker now than early on and hopefully I can keep that going through the rest of the year. I haven’t yet been to the Worlds track so I’ll be riding it blind, but I’m on such a high already I am confident of a good result there.”
Rachel Atherton did not have such good luck in her run with a mistake in the start hut costing time that could never be regained.
“My race went pretty bad from the start, out of the gate I hit one of the poles and broke the beam and stopped dead straight away. I couldn’t believe it, it was the worst possible way to start. All the way down I was loose, blowing out turns, but what can you do. This race has fired me up to get it right at the Worlds now, every bad race you learn a little more about yourself – I’m just fed up with having bloody races that I can learn stuff from!”
Sandwiching the two Brits was Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier who regained her World Cup leaders’ jersey, but was unhappy with her overall result.
“The race went well today but I ended up making too many mistakes in the top section, I started out too fast and ended up scaring myself! I’m pretty upset with finishing second but Tracy did a very good ride today. The main thing was I took back the leaders jersey – that’s the one good thing for today. The Worlds is going to be hard, the same battle between Tracy, Rachel and I as last year though. I like the course over in Italy, fast and technical but it needs some more pedalling!”
MENS DOWNHILL (DHI) Results:
1. MINNAAR Greg (RSA) 4:43:52
2. ATHERTON Gee (GBR) 4:46:69
3. PEAT Steve (GBR) 4:47:42
4. RENNIE Nathan (AUS) 4:48:19
5. HILL Samuel (AUS) 4:48:70
6. ATHERTON Dan (GBR) 4:49:76
7. LEOV Justin (NZL) 4:52.38
8. CATHRO Ben (GBR) 4:52:40
9. BLENKINSOP Samuel (NZL) 4:52:97
10. PASCAL Mikael (FRA) 4:53:87
WOMENS DOWNHILL (DHI) Results:
1. MOSELEY Tracy (GBR) 5:20:87
2. JONNIER Sabrina (FRA) 5:25:01
3. ATHERTON Rachel (GBR) 5:26:76
4. SUEMASA Mio (JPN) 5:35:64
5. BUHL Melissa (USA) 5:45:19
6. GROS Celine (FRA) 5:45:57
7. NICOLE Myriam (FRA) 5:46:14
8. GRIFFITHS Fionn (GBR) 5:46:47
9. MOLCIK Anita (AUT) 5:49:05
10. PRUITT Kathleen (USA) 5:52:24