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WORLD CUP SOUTH AFRICA, MARITZBURG MEMORIES

 

South Africans were once again privileged to witness the world’s best mountain bike racers competing at the first round of the 2014 UCI World Cup, presented by Shimano. Privileged being the key word here.

Those that did make an effort to get to the Cascades Mountain Bike Park in Pietermaritzburg during the second weekend of April will have left with a feeling of immense satisfaction. – Sean Badenhorst

Watching the finest athletes in the sport is an impactful experience. You hear them breathing heavily on the steep climbs, contrasting sound to the clicking of their gears; you see the perspiration dripping off their dusty faces; and you feel their disappointment when they have a mishap right in front of you. You’re so close to the action, you could reach out and touch the riders.

The Women's XCO start. there’s a good chance there won’t be World Cup round in South Africa after 2014. On one hand this would be a great pity, but on the other, perhaps it’ll make South Africans realise just what an honour it is to host an event like this. Photo: Dino Lloyd

The Women’s XCO start. there’s a good chance there won’t be World Cup round in South Africa after 2014. On one hand this would be a great pity, but on the other, perhaps it’ll make South Africans realise just what an honour it is to host an event like this.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

You can walk up to and talk to the riders when they’re not wearing their race faces because they’re not aloof and protected by a veil of security like the stars of many other global sports.

Except for the 2010 ‘gap year’, we have, since 2009, been able to experience the best of the planet’s best racing in Pietermaritzburg. The legacy this has left includes a world-class racing facility and a generation of youngsters that have been inspired in the best way possible to pursue their passion and commit to making their own mountain bike racing dreams come true.

Here’s a collection of images and quotes from the 2014 World Cup in Maritzburg. Cherish the memories folks. Appreciate the privilege. It may not come around again…

Julien Absalon won his first title in the Men's XCO race at Pietermaritzburg.  Photo: Dino Lloyd

Julien Absalon won his first title in the Men’s XCO race at Pietermaritzburg.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

“I’m really happy. It’s great to win the first World Cup, especially with it being here in South Africa where I crashed twice and broke ribs at last year’s World Champs. I wasn’t the fastest downhill and I arrived a little bit stressed after my two crashes last year. I wasn’t really feeling comfortable in the Tree House rock garden but I did find a safe line, maybe not the fastest but a safe one, and the feeling and shape was good so I was happy.” – Julien Absalon (FRA), two-time Olympic Champion, four-time World Champion and Elite men’s XCO winner.

Despite her hard crash early on, Jolanda Neff regained her rhythm to maintain her lead and win the Women's XCO race. Photo: Dino Lloyd

Despite her hard crash early on, Jolanda Neff regained her rhythm to maintain her lead and win the Women’s XCO race.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

“I had a crash on the second lap after I had a lead of over a minute. And when I crashed I lost a lot of time and hurt myself; and my saddle was out of place so I had to get off again and fix it. It is not the best thing that can happen but I was happy that I could find the rhythm again in the next lap and keep the lead until the finish line. I like the course here. The new sections are really fun to ride and I have started to really love racing here.” – Jolanda Neff (SUI), current Under-23 World Champion and winner of the Elite women’s XCO.

Down, but not out. Swiss Under-23 World Champion, Jolanda Neff displayed a combination of power, speed, skill and well, toughness at the opening round of the UCI World Cup at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park, Pietermaritzburg. Neff led from start to finish in the women’s race, her first as an Elite racer, despite crashing hard on the exit of the Corkscrew section on the second lap . “She definitely hurt herself in the crash. It actually looked like she might not continue, but she got up, straightened her saddle, jumped back on her bike and charged off, still in the lead!” said Dino Lloyd, TREAD Managing Editor, who captured this sequence. Photos: Dino Lloyd

Down, but not out. Swiss Under-23 World Champion, Jolanda Neff displayed a combination of power, speed, skill and well, toughness at the opening round of the UCI World Cup at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park, Pietermaritzburg. Neff led from start to finish in the women’s race, her first as an Elite racer, despite crashing hard on the exit of the Corkscrew section on the second lap . “She definitely hurt herself in the crash. It actually looked like she might not continue, but she got up, straightened her saddle, jumped back on her bike and charged off, still in the lead!” said Dino Lloyd, TREAD Managing Editor, who captured this sequence. Photos: Dino Lloyd

 

41 year old Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa finished second in the Women'c XCO race. Photo: Dino Lloyd

41 year old Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa finished second in the Women’c XCO race.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

“I had a lot of fun out there. It is extremely hard but we have worked a lot on my technical skills. The sport has changed a lot in the last five or six years and I think I proved to everyone else and especially myself that I can still be up there fighting. The courses are not going to stop changing and I am just really happy with what I did out there today.” – Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (NOR), former Olympic Champion and four-time World Champion, runner-up in the Elite women’s XCO.

Aaron Gwin claimed a solid win in the Men's DH race.  Photo: Dino Lloyd

Aaron Gwin claimed a solid win in the Men’s DH race.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

“I’m just happy, really stoked. It is definitely a team win! Everyone at Specialized has been working so hard for us, trying to get us the best equipment, best support, best staff and best everything and they have been really killing it for us. The race was great this year! The track was good, the fans – as always – down here are great! I love racing here!” – Aaron Gwin (USA), men’s DH winner

Greg Minnaar raced with a support brace on his knee as he wasn't yet fully recovered from ACL surgery. Photo: Dino Lloyd

Greg Minnaar raced with a support brace on his knee as he wasn’t yet fully recovered from ACL surgery.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

“I was really nervous up top. I wasn’t super comfortable riding all the technical stuff. I haven’t had a lot of time on my bike since my surgery so I just tried to suss things out beforehand and then just relax as much as I could before my run. I had a really good run up top and I survived but, given the condition I’m in and a lack of time on the bike, I’m still really happy with my third place! I’m just really thankful for all the people coming out and supporting me again, it’s incredible to see all the support.” – Greg Minnaar, three-time World Champion, third in the Men’s DH, despite recent knee ligament surgery.

Deflated, not defeated. Reigning world champion, Nino Schurter (SUI), negotiates the big rock garden at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park, Pietermaritzburg with a flat back tyre. Schurter’s quest to win for the fourth time on one of his favourite courses during the opening round of the UCI World Cup was scuppered when he punctured halfway through the penultimate lap, while leading. He showed impressive control in riding the half-lap (about 2km) to the tech zone to get a new wheel, losing ground to his rivals, but managing to finish sixth in the end. Frenchman, Julien Absalon claimed the victory in the Elite men’s race.  Photo: Dino Lloyd

Deflated, not defeated. Reigning world champion, Nino Schurter (SUI), negotiates the big rock garden at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park, Pietermaritzburg with a flat back tyre. Schurter’s quest to win for the fourth time on one of his favourite courses during the opening round of the UCI World Cup was scuppered when he punctured halfway through the penultimate lap, while leading. He showed impressive control in riding the half-lap (about 2km) to the tech zone to get a new wheel, losing ground to his rivals, but managing to finish sixth in the end. Frenchman, Julien Absalon claimed the victory in the Elite men’s race.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

“Unfortunately I flatted and in quite a bad place too, so I had to ride quite a far way with the flat, but that’s racing. When you see guys flying past you, it’s always a bad feeling but it’s happened to everyone and you have to accept it. Hopefully next time I will have better luck and be back for more podiums.” – Nino Schurter (SUI), three-time World Champion after puncturing while leading the Elite men’s XCO. He finished sixth.

James Reid finished fourth in the Under-23 men's race, the only South African on an XCO podium. Photo: Dino Lloyd

James Reid finished fourth in the Under-23 men’s race, the only South African on an XCO podium.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

Manon Carpenter won the Women's DH race in true style. Photo: Dino Lloyd

Manon Carpenter won the Women’s DH race in true style. Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

Maja Wloszczowska descends the 'Corscrew' on her final lap during the Women's XCO race. Photo: Dino Lloyd

Maja Wloszczowska descends the ‘Corscrew’ on her final lap during the Women’s XCO race.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

Riders from neighbouring Lesotho took the opportunity to gain international level racing, showing true commitment over all the A line sections. Photo: Dino Lloyd

Riders from neighbouring Lesotho took the opportunity to gain international level racing, showing true commitment over all the A line sections.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

Tyron Bird is assisted by spectators after a hard crash early on in the Men's XCO race. Photo: Dino Lloyd

Tyron Bird is assisted by spectators after a hard crash early on in the Men’s XCO race.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

The course and terrain took it's toll on equipment as riders got used to the Pietermaritzburg DH course.  Photo: Dino Lloyd

The course and terrain took it’s toll on equipment as riders got used to the Pietermaritzburg DH course.
Photo: Dino Lloyd

 

TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio

*Originally published in TREAD Issue 29, 2014 – All rights reserved

tread 29 cover

 

WORLD CUP SOUTH AFRICA, MARITZBURG MEMORIES Reviewed by on .   South Africans were once again privileged to witness the world’s best mountain bike racers competing at the first round of the 2014 UCI World Cup, presen   South Africans were once again privileged to witness the world’s best mountain bike racers competing at the first round of the 2014 UCI World Cup, presen Rating: 0

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