Pietermaritzburg – 2013 has been a difficult UCI MTB World Cup season for South African men’s downhiller Andrew Neethling who has had to battle against injury throughout, however the local talent remains hugely positive heading into the biggest event of the year – the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships being held in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August – 1 September.
Neethling recently competed at the fourth World Cup event of the year in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada where he claimed a solid eighth place, despite the difficult wet conditions, which many will be hoping is a sign of the Giant Factory Off-road team member coming into some good form after a shaky start to his year.
“It has been a bit of a roller coaster season for me so far. I have suffered a fair few big crashes which is not normal for me and have obviously been pretty frustrating,” South Africa’s second highest ranked downhill competitor said.
“Fort William was solid for me but I had to sit out of round two after crashing heavily the morning of the race.
“I’m healthy now though and I’m looking to try build up some momentum heading into the World Champs.”
His eighth place in Canada has been his best finish in the World Cup series this year which might provide him with that momentum that he has been searching for. He has one more event to use as a fine tuning exercise before he heads back to his homeland for the start of the World Champs.
“I have just finished the World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne and now I have the Whistler Crankworks festival then after that I get a few days at home and then its World Champs,” the 29 year old said.
Having the home ground advantage could prove to be beneficial to Neethling and knowing the course well is another plus, although there isn’t all that much pressure on the riders to get to know the track before they ride because there is sufficient time during the event to familiarise themselves with the conditions.
“Having ridden Cascades a good few time before, I know most of the course well and then we have enough time during the event to get to know the changes that have been made for this year’s event.
“It is nice to know the course well from racing it in the past and I have not paid too much attention to the changes but I know the course builders are doing a great job.
“I have been working hard for Worlds and to perform well at home has been a goal of mine throughout the season,” he added.
Neethling has set himself the goal of winning a medal in Pietermaritzburg. With such a strong field at the premier event of the year it is going to be tough for the Somerset West local but if he can ride as well as some know his talents to permit, there is a chance he could be on the podium come Sunday 1 September.
“A medal is a dream of mine and I have my eyes on that – a medal or even top five and I will be extremely happy.
“If I ride my best and fulfil my potential then I don’t see why that can’t happen and if I do that then I will be extremely proud,” he added excitedly.
Travelling from Whistler back to South Africa means different conditions and adapting to these conditions in the build-up to the main event may well prove vital. Neethling has been working on, what he feels are, the correct things in the lead up to the World Champs.
“In a perfect world it would be great to put in a strong finish but the tracks are very different.
“I have had to work on my fitness for the Pietermaritzburg track but I enjoy the track as well and I think carrying speed is going to be key and has been an area I have done well in in the past,” explained Neethling.
The UCI MTB & Trials World Championships take place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August – 1 September and are preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from 21 – 25 August 2013. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media