Andrew Neethling’s downhill racing career has been both progressive and impressive. But it’s been overshadowed by the feats of compatriot, Greg Minnaar, the current Downhill World Champion. You don’t finish on a World Cup podium by chance and Neethling’s done collected 2 podiums and 16 top 10 finishes in the past four years. Considered one of the most stylish descenders on the planet, Neethling is aiming to make ’13 his best year yet. – Sean Badenhorst
So, did 2012 go better or worse than you’d planned?
I guess I can say better and worse if that is possible. I was aiming to be very consistent and be in the mix every weekend. I achieved this and more. I had four top-10 finishes and also placed 13th twice in seven World Cup races. Funny thing is that despite that consistency, I just missed a top 10 overall so that is still disappointing. I was 12th in the Series.
What do you like most about being on the Giant racing team?
There are so many things I like. Mostly, besides the great bike, I would say the group of people working for the team. From the people in the office to everyone I travel with. They are trying to give us riders what we need to do our job.
And what do you like second most?
I like the bike and great co sponsors we have like SRAM who are a big part of the team. They are also a fun bunch of people and awesome to work with.
What are you doing differently this year to improve your racing performance?
I am mainly trying to build on what I achieved last year but really ride every race as its own and not get caught up in the year as a whole. Focus on the present and don’t hold back. I have worked even harder on my fitness and want to peak nicely for World’s.
What is Giant doing differently to your bikes this year to improve your racing performance?
We worked a ton on geometry and now we see it on production bikes, which is great. We are in a good place now but we are not sitting still. Always planning ahead.
With the World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, have you placed additional pressure on yourself for World’s?
I know there might pressure but even though World’s is a huge focus and goal. It is a bit far off so not thinking about it too much at the moment. I am just excited to be able to race such a big race in South Africa in front of a home crowd. Guess I will leave the big pressure to hometown boy Minnaar.
And last year you had a good finish in Pietermaritzburg with seventh, so your confidence must be good?
Yes, that was a pretty good finish, especially since I was racing with a fractured hand. Actually it was my best World Cup result of 2012.
You qualified fourth and finished ninth at Windham, USA last year. You were third there in 2011. What is it about that course?
Windham just seems to suit me. It’s a bit shorter and maybe similar to a South African course. You need to hold your speed and sometimes make your own.
What is your biggest weakness and have you been working on it during the off-season?
Sometimes I feel my weakness is myself (laughs). Always working on it. I have shown I can be right up there so want to do it more often! Maybe it’s just backing my own ability more often and developing my BMT.
You have some new sponsors – tell us about them.
Yes, I’m excited to have signed with ROCKSTAR Energy. Great to have the support from them now and I must say, I really love my new paintwork on my helmet. I have also got added support from FOX clothing on and off the bike.
A word of advice for any up-and-coming young downhillers that want to be pro like you one day?
Ride, ride, ride your bike! Have fun and work hard. I think dirt jumping is also a good skill to have. If you are motivated and practice often, you can achieve it.
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Originally published in TREAD Issue 23, 2013 – All rights reserved