Santa Cruz Syndicate's Greg Minnaar (SRAM/RockShox) shows that he can win on any track as he puts his strengths to the test and wins here in Leogang, Austria at the 3rd UCI World Cup Downhill. Steve Peat is back on track narrowly missing the podium by .05 seconds and placing 6th, bumping him up to 12th overall in the series, and Josh Bryceland had a horrible crash hitting a tree and stunned himself on his race run.
The week started out warm and pleasant in the breathtakingly beautiful village of Leogang, Austria. We celebrated Steve's 36th birthday at a nearby restaurant that served Tatar's Hat, a treat we only find in Austria where you place raw meat on a special cooker on your table, with a little moat around it filled with shredded vegetables and broth, which you drizzle over the sizzling meat. The owner of the restaurant was pleased to have us in the house and showed us her best hospitality by dancing and the table and from the rafters. It was unforgettable!
The summer weather quickly disappeared and the cold rain arrived making the course a muddy mess. Maxxis Wet Screams were in order in these conditions. As it was the course was dangerous and the mud had riders crashing all over the place in the qualifier. Greg was first man down and posted a 4:03, which held up for 2nd place. Steve and Josh both had muddy crashes in their qualifiers and placed 34th and 24th respectively and they both hoped to turn things around for the final.
The night before the race Steve commented that every time he wore the World Champs jersey he crashed. Ricky Bobby had a solution and suggested he crash before the start to get it over with. Race day Steve took it to heart and Ricky says,
"Steve did the Dead Turtle before the start and threw himself into the bushes, through the fence, into someone's front garden, pulling up flowers and rolling around in the mud to get the jersey dirty." Apparently the strategy worked and Steve had a great run, upright, and crossed the line in 4:11.82 and held the hotseat for over a half hour while creeping into the top ten. It looked like the podium was in reach until Cameron Cole came across the line just .05 seconds faster. "Now I know how Greg felt at World's," said Steve.
Fifteen minutes later Josh was on course and after the first split he slipped in the greasy conditions and was sent sideways in the air and his head and shoulders took a direct hit into a tree at quite high speed. Concussed, he stood up, walked off the track and sat for a bit before cruising down the side of the course, not to finish the race. He felt as though he may have separated his shoulder and was still in shock at the bottom. Josh said, "The weekend was good and I found my pace again, but I am devastated to crash out like that. It's not where I want to be in the overall, but I'm ready now to prepare for Champery and Val Di Sole."
Soon Gee Atherton came through the finish with a time of 4:06.39, a staggering 5 seconds faster than Cameron Cole and Steve, each on 4:11. This looked to be a lofty goal to reach, but Greg was up to the task and put .74 seconds into Gee with a 4:05.65 at the finish after being down on Gee 2.22 seconds at the first split. With fastest qualifier Sam Blenkinsop last he was flying down the track, but was getting out of shape at the bottom. He also finished on 4:11, dashing Steve's hope for a podium, but it secured Greg's win (in front of some of the PMB oneLife crew in attendance), for his 2nd World Cup win this season. It was his 13th UCI Downhill career win, with 8 of those wins on Santa Cruz, 2 of which were on the Carbon V-10 and Edge wheels. This was also his 45th World Cup podium, which ties Nico Voilleuz record, and is 5 behind Steve's 50 career podiums.
Steve was happy and said, "It's nice to be back up there and I was pretty solid. I didn't rip any trees up and kept my speed up through the muddy sections. I feel better about myself now. I came into the weekend to have fun and get up to speed. I felt better riding my Santa Cruz Carbon V-10 and Greg dragged me back up to speed. Thanks Greg! Jon Cancellier from SRAM/RockShox had my bike dialed and thanks to Ricky Bobby for the mint bike. I'm enjoying my riding again."
Greg was very happy, and surprised to win with the run he had. Greg says, "It was an amazing weekend with a 2nd in qualifier and 1st in the race. The race was really hard and conditions made it hard to stay on line and even on the track. I made a few big mistakes on the top. I wanted to be smooth and carry speed and work hard on the pedaling, but it didn't really happen that way and I was all over the place and taking dabs with my gangly legs. Thanks to Doug for having my bike perfect!"
We now have half of the World Cup season under our belt and Greg is still in the leaders jersey, 73 points ahead of Gee Atherton. With 4 weeks until the next World Cup, this week we will be competing at the Pro GRT race in Northstar at Lake Tahoe, California. Josh may sit this one out depending on the doctor's report on his shoulder.
Finnish MTB downhill professional Matti Lehikoinen tells the story of his return to World Cup racing after fracturing two vertebrae in a 2007 offseason training accident. Although coming from a country with everything but perfect natural practice conditions Matti is one of the most talented racers in the circuit.
Filmed at locations in Andorra, Austria, Finland, Scotland and Switzerland.
a 25framez.com production