Pietermaritzburg – Having tasted success at the Cascades MTB Park previously, Australian Downhill star siblings Mick and Tracey Hannah are hoping to make history and become to first siblings to win the men’s and the women’s downhill titles respectively at the UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, in Pietermaritzburg when they take to the tricky Cascades MTB Park layout from 11-13 April.
Having lost out narrowly to South African hero Greg Minnaar at the 2013 UCI MTB and Trials World Championships in Pietermaritzburg in 2013, Mick has been hard at work in the off-season in an attempt to get himself back to the summit of his discipline.
“Going into the season I have changed my training a little this year,” the Hutchinson UR Team rider said. “So far I’m really happy with the results, but I never know until the first race. Also we have done a lot of work with the bike so I think we’re giving ourselves a good chance to do well this year.”
Mick Hannah has ended in second place twice in Pietermaritzburg, once in the 2009 World Cup leg and then again at the World Champs seven months ago and, with a good knowledge of the course and a fondness for the unique layout, Mick’s chances of going one better in 2014 seem bright.
“I really enjoy riding the Cascades course! It’s fast and fun. It’s definitely physically demanding as well. I think it’s an exciting venue!
“I have done well here consistently. I really enjoy the high speed courses and here you need a lot of power which is a strength of mine,” the 31 year old added.
Tracey Hannah rode to a memorable victory in Pietermaritzburg in 2012 but was unable to repeat her feat in 2013 with British rider Rachel Atherton producing a near flawless display to claim the converted rainbow striped jersey at the World Champs at Cascades.
Tracey has been plagued by injury in recent times but is in the unique position of having a clean bill of health heading into the 2014 Pietermaritzburg spectacle.
“I’ve had probably the best off season I’ve ever had! In the past I’ve had injuries but this season has been clean and I’m feeling fit and fast with no injuries,” the current World number 10 said.
The two Australian stars have got an exciting prospect ahead of them as they prepare for the first World Cup event to be staged in their hometown on Cairns following the opening leg in Pietermaritzburg.
“Getting a good start to the season is very important for me!” Mick mentioned. “As I said before I would love to win. Firstly because of my history in Pietermaritzburg, but also because the second round is at home in Cairns and I would love to start there with the leader’s jersey!”
The trip to Pietermaritzburg is a popular leg of the World Cup with it offering up something very different to what the riders are used in Europe and Tracey enjoys the different aspects of the Cascades course as well as the atmosphere that surrounds the event.
“I think it’s a really great track. I love the speed and the jumps and its super fun to ride and hard to race. It’s usually slippery and dusty so the bike gets loose but I just love the speed of the track and the way it’s built to flow.
“The most original thing about Cascades must be the people, the atmosphere, it’s very different to say Europe or anywhere,” she added excitedly.
Having come off a successful off-season, Tracey is heading into the event confident but is cautious about putting too much pressure on herself as the defending champion at the Pietermaritzburg World Cup.
“I’d love to win it again but my goal this season is to be consistent without injury.”
‘I’d say getting a good start to the season is very important but all my eggs aren’t in the Pietermaritzburg basket! I just hope to do my best race and I’ll be happy with that,” the 25 year old said conservatively.
The UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 11-13 April 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media