Now Reading:

World Champs Warm-Up - Pietermaritzburg Preview

World Champs Warm-Up - Pietermaritzburg Preview

Welcome to the World Champs Warm-Up – Pietermaritzburg Preview, or WCWUPP, as I’ve affectionately named it. Easy for you to say.

It’s that time of the year again. How did that happen?! Last time I looked, we were back at Fort William wondering what happened to Gwin and why it wasn’t raining… I must have blinked. Anyway, World Champs are close to dropping, so here’s the Dirt Mag official guide to the event.

The place:
Pietermaritzburg (do I really have to type that again?! Hereafter called PMB), South Africa. Or, if your geography wasn’t that good at school and hasn’t improved since, it’s here.

It’s the capital of the province KwaZulu-Natal, and home to Greg Minnaar. Has he been getting some sneaky practice in? Possibly. We’ll speculate on riders later.

Weather-wise, the forecast looks interesting on the internet. See photographer Victor Lucas’ tweet below… I also dug out the monthly weather stats for PMB.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 16.20.48


Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 17.21.20

This round will be an interesting one. It’s preceded by the Masters World Champs, which, unusually, is in the same place as the main Champs round. Also, this has been the first year of the separate Junior World Cup rounds, which should result in a more competitive race than ever before. There are a few wild cards for Champs in the Junior realm as well, with no-one storming ahead with a clear points lead as yet. Predictions will be difficult.

The course:
The PMB course is famed for being flatter than my woeful attempts at pancakes. Not exactly the Champery, Val di Sole, or Vallnord of the World Cup circuit, it’s a bit pedally. And that’s an understatement. Here’s a helmetcam. Make sure you don’t blink, or you might miss the “rock gardens”.

Opinions seem to be split into two camps on this track. I’ll use the comments section when we first posted up the helmet cam to illustrate…

Some hate it...
Some hate it…
Some aren't so bothered.
Some aren’t so bothered.

There have been a few changes, but it’s still the long, fast, largely flat course we’re used to. Regardless, it should be a good race. Now for the contentious stuff…

Bikes. Will anyone choose to race a Mini DH/ Enduro bike here? We had dropper posts on last year’s bikes – maybe someone will take the plunge. Just as I wrote that, Ed walked into the room and told me that Graves might be racing on an enduro bike, but a 26” one. That brings us to wheelsize: will anyone be running big wheels? Surely it would be madness to ignore the advantages on a course like PMB? We’ll see…

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 11.43.03

Place your bets…
So we’ve got a long, fast, flat-ish course in Minnaar’s back garden. Who should you put the money on? Well let’s see who’s won on this course previously…

Last year:
1. Greg Minnaar
2. Aaron Gwin
3. Mick Hannah

1. Tracey Hannah
2. Manon Carpenter
3. Emmeline Ragot

And in 2011 it was:
1. Aaron Gwin
2. Greg Minnaar
3. Gee Atherton

1. Tracy Moseley
2. Fionn Griffiths
3. Emmeline Ragot

Tracey Hannah has been injured with a broken collarbone recently, so let’s hope she’s back and on form. Gwin has been steadily climbing all year, and PMB could be the return to victory, or something close. Tracy Moseley has moved over to enduro racing for this year which leaves us with Greg, who’s consistently at (or near) the top at the moment. Could it be a repeat victory?

We had a sweep-around in the office to ask everyone who their money was on. Here’s what we came back with…

1. Mick Hannah
2. Greg Minnaar
3. Aaron Gwin

1. Rachel Atherton
2. Manon Carpenter
3. Myriam Nicole

1. Greg Minnaar
2. Mick Hannah
3. Gee Atherton

1. Rachel Atherton
2. Manon Carpenter
3. Emmeline Ragot

1. Jared Graves
2. Greg Minnaar
3. Aaron Gwin

1. Rachel Atherton
2. Manon Carpenter
3. Floriane Pugin

James McKnight:
1. Brian Lopes
2. Tinker Juarez
3. Chris Hoy

1. Missy Giove
2. Katy Curd
3. Adele
(something tells me he’s joking? Maybe just hungover)

Big Mike:
1. Greg Minnaar
2. Gee Atherton
3. Aaron Gwin

1. Rachel Atherton
2. Emmeline Ragot
3. Myriam Nicole

Feel free to post up your predictions below – top three men and women. Anyone who gets it spot on might get a sticker or two, and maybe the mouldy lollipop Billy dropped behind his filing cabinet last year if you’re lucky. Pomegranate flavour, I believe. That’s only if you’re lucky though. If you want a reminder of the track and how fast it really is then here’s the DirtTV edit from the first round in 2012.

Just so you know what’s going down and when here is the full breakdown of the event schedule, some pretty wild timings in there and a very early start for some riders!

So there you have it – the idiots’ guide to the PMB World Champs. It will, of course, be broadcast on Red Bull TV like the World Cup rounds, so tune in on the 1st of September at 12:50 our time to see all the action.

  1. Jake Boylett

    Greg for the win

  2. Mad_Homer

    Sam Hill all the way…;-)

  3. Johann

    1. Gee Atherton
    2. Greg Minaar
    3. Mick Hannah

    1. Rachel Atherton
    2. Emmeline Ragot
    3. Manon Carpenter

  4. Hanz

    any update on Rachel smashing herself up in MSA? is she in contention? She seemed to have damaged her shoulder AGAIN

  5. joe

    Well Sic Micks going to be a contender for sure, Gee and Minnaar will be there obviously, Sam will be up for a 5th but Graves is a wild card for sure with all that enduro behind him.

  6. Hoshi

    Well I think might not do well in RSA even through I’d love to see him winning. Specialized’s drugs aren’t as good as Trek obviously so Gwin might be out as well. I’ll stick with Greg, Gee, Mic and Jared on his Enduro!

  7. Jimmyb

    Don’t write off Steve Smith. On a roll at the moment, fit as a fiddle for the pedalling and a special one of worlds bike from Devinci.

  8. Craig

    1. Stevie Smith
    2. Greg Minaar
    3. Gee Atherton

    1. Rachel Atherton
    2. Emmeline Ragot
    3. Manon Carpenter

  9. Eoin

    Hard to get too excited for PDM, but very excited to see how Graves does on his 150mm travel bike!

    1. Eoin

      Make that PMB…

  10. JC

    1 – Greg
    2 – Gee
    3 – Smith

    1- Rach
    2 – Carpenter
    3 – T Hannah

    Mick has been quick at PMB but the final result has eluded him. Smith was mega quick after a mistake in 2012. No one can stop Greg winning this though.

  11. Peter

    1 – Greg
    2 – Gee
    3 – Mick/Peaty/Gwin

    1 – Carpenter
    2 – Atherton
    3 – Ragot

    Some might think i’m being daft but I have faith in Peaty to podium. He has always been very strong at Worlds, even last year he was on a flier. He’s just off a BDS win and will be looking to do well here. He can pedal as good as the top boys too!

  12. Breadman


  13. raymond

    Table mountain is the best place to host a DH race in south africa! cable car, steep singletracks!!! (Im not from south africa, but I visted Table Mountain and was wandering with there is no race down there)

  14. rh

    1. Smith 2. Atherton 3. Minaar

  15. Tim

    Shouting for Graves on a trail bike just to stick a finger to the UCI…

    1. Willy W

      How would that be sticking a finger to the UCI?

      1. gabe

        cos a dh track should require a dh bike. simple

  16. James

    1. Graves
    2. Gwin on a 29er Enduro
    3. Peaty.

    1. Mannon, because she deserves a win
    2. Rachel
    3. Adele

  17. Chris

    1. Graves on an enduro bike, finishing with a moonie at the UCI
    2. Steve Peat on his tallboy
    3. Bradley Wiggins

    1. Rachel in a skinsuit… Can’t see anyone complaining about that
    2. Ragot
    3. Carpenter

  18. Hampson

    This is Air dh South Africa style. So I have to put Smith right up there in the top three. Greg for medals and then the other slot could be filled my many. Gee, Sick Mick, Peaty?, Gwin, and the rest. Lets hope someone wins on a short travel bike to ensure that every track must have a gnar section somewhere, to slow down those who either have little bottle or a little bike.

  19. Simon s

    PEATY 2013 World Champ 😉

  20. Mez Eldridge-Tull

    Is there a list anywhere of the teams? Would like to see who is representing their country this year!

    1. Marcus
  21. Hecklerone

    It still is a downhill track ,but you will never should say never, 1-gee/2-Greg /3-brook mc,but I wish ratboy would win,COME ON BOY FOCUS!! FORGET ALL THE REST,ALL THE ADVICES JUST GO FOR IT BELIEVE STAND TALL. Oh and please don’t crash ,but if you do do it with style

  22. jon moss

    As far as the course goes ive not rode downhill for 10 years an not rode a mountain bike for years either but im sure i could ride that full course in the first two or three runs down. Thats not how a world champs track should be. It reminds me of Penshurst

  23. Hecklerone

    Oh oh just saw the footage,it’s just lacks what’s the word……………..a climb,that’s it ,and maybe a “technical” zone.come on dropper posts , maybe 2.00 tires for fast rolling,but hey it’s different ,for worst but different. GO RATBOY USE YOUR TALLBOY WITH 2,25 tires TAKE A CHANSE .

  24. Willy+W

    Ahh I love the silly comments from under-educated over-opinionated keyboard warriors! Newsflash goons, most of the riders love to ride the PMB track but dislike racing it at 100% as no matter how fit you are it is a horrible suffer. While it is not a classic gnarly or steep beast ala Andorra or VDS, it does pose interesting challenges to the racers and also has the highest average speed of all the World Cup tracks raced. Winning on a small bike will not happen and even if it did it would not “stick” anything to the UCI. They didn’t build the track. This track is fast and brutal in parts, big jumps, very, very slick soil and will test bike and rider. Maybe not what the sport should be but it will look god on TV. I know you guys love to think you know stuff but in reality you all know f-all! Listen to the riders in attendance on your Facebook stalking missions and you’ll see that fun is being had.

    Shame on Dirt also for such a piss-poor “preview” just saying that the track is dull/crap when in reality there is a lot of track to race, a lot of time to find/loose and large technical and physical challenge and a catelogue of 3 previous races to go over for stats and analysis.

    Sadly DH and many people in the “industry” would rather be cool then actually analysis this sport and give it the respect it deserves.

    Seen as I’m so clever (tongue in cheek), on the subject of trail bikes at this race (Graves only?) I would be shocked if Graves get’s into the top 10 and even more shocked if he gets within 6 seconds of the win. A DH bike (26″) with no dropper will win this race……..like always!

    1. gabe

      high average speed requires a long wheelbase and relatively slack head angle. That is why this race will be won on a dh rig. However, the suspension will most likely be pretty much turned off, as the track is rather dull. No technical challenges other than a few high speed off camber turns. not exactly taxing for a wc level racer. A very special one off trail bike with extended wheelbase, slack angles, low weight and good power transfer would destroy many full dh rigs down this track. Perhaps good for enduro but in my eyes DH should be ALL about bike handling (with a bit of balls thrown in for good measure)

      “I know you guys love to think you know stuff but in reality you all know f-all!”

      look in the mirror mate. I love how angry people get in these comment sections.

      And yes the track probably is fun. Dirt jumps are fun. Its not a dh race track tho. And (I may well be mistaken here) did greg not win on a dropper post a few years back? Or did I imagine that?

      1. Willy+W

        Looking in the mirror and I all I see is a guy who knows the sport and loves a good debate!

        A custom one off long, slack “enduro” bike is not a trail bike, it is not what Graves or Ropolato are racing on. Which are more stock enduro race bikes. What you are describing is the one off type of shorter rig with DH geometry that Steve Smith will be racing! I’ve seen it and could be a winner but it is not a trail bike.

        Funny you think the high speeds, big jumps and rolls and crest are not a technical challenge. Technique is the application of skill. High speed, slick surfaces and big jumps make the execution of skills difficult and as such it is a technical track in my opinion. There will be large time gaps. Large one!

        Soooo angry…sorrry!!!!!

      2. GABE

        big jumps are scary. But they’re not hard to do. High speeds are scary, but they’re not hard to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching (and riding of course) high speeds and big jumps, but what sets dh apart from other sports (in my opinion at least) is riding terrain so steep, so rough and brutal that its a challenge just staying on the bike. If I wanted to see people bombing down hills with nothing really impeding their progress, winning races through pedalling efficiency and vo2 max rather than balls and incredible skills, I’d watch the tour de france. Or enduro. or xce.

    2. Matt Grindrod

      That started well, but I lost you towards the end. I’d be willing to bet the entire top 20 will be running droppers for a start

  25. Damian

    Anyone who does well at Fort William will do well here, as your legs are going to be knackered by the time you get to the bottom with all the pedalling, like Scotland where the motorway claims the last energy reserves of a lot of class riders.
    So Greg,Gee,Stevie,Brook and Sam are all best bets with Blenki, Bryceland and perhaps the powerhouse Graves now the wild cards, but i could be completely wrong !
    Women i think its gonna be down to Rach, Manon and Myriam Nicole as shes a good pedaller.

  26. Québe-quoi?

    If Graves is racing DH world champs on this course…i cannot see anyone else win.
    seriously. Take a moment,…think about it…

    1-J. Graves
    2-J. Graves
    3-J. Graves

    1. scriz

      My money is on Hannah or Smith….. both have tons of power and are dialed into full DH speeds. Graves will definitely make some time on the pedals, but I don’t think it will be enough.

      1. Qubec-de-quoi?

        true..true…Smith is killing averything he touches right now, but i remember Graves killing it at Sea Oter a couple a years back (2011 maybe?) doing the DH on his 4X bike.
        same kindda track me thinks….

        anyway, it’s is just to much fun to discuss!
        i love it!

  27. skud

    remember when some riders were on enduro bikes at Canberra and people had money on Graves/Lopes and Peaty smashed them on his v10!

    1. Québec-Quoi?

      good point, i wouldnt say that Peaty ”smoked them” but he won, that’s true.
      THe shorter the track, the less the bike makes a difference. Also, i guess it’s easy to make an opinion behind a desk but when you are actually seting up to race it’s usually very different.

      my opinion and prediction still stands tho. I think that Graves (and may other)has aquired knowledge on how to win races on an enduro bike. That is different from 2009 Worlds.
      The enduro/AM/super-D bikes are much, much better than they were 5 years ago and the riders riding them too.

      races…always exiting!

      1. skud

        I reckon the main reason he’s riding a beefed up sb66 is because he’s ridden it all year, and doesn’t have time to adjust to the DH bike again. He could make up time in the middle section but I think he will lose time at the top. Its going to be close but my money is still on dh rigs filling the podium :)

  28. ronin

    so what if the club doesn’t serve the best drinks? shut up. sit back. and enjoy the lap dance.

    1. Matt Grindrod

      If any comments deserve free stickers, it’s this one

  29. KT

    ^^ Yup.

  30. Hecklerone

    Hey willy+w you say riders are getting good fun on the track ,they are not payed to get fun but to race and then in the ultimate case to have fun ,cause when you are having fun you are not pushing you are wasting your time and sponsors money ,but I like fun that’s why I do not race eh eh

  31. Jack

    1. Atherton
    2. Smith
    3. Minaar

    1. Atherton
    2. Carpenter
    3. Ragot

    Am enjoying the lively debate. Willy: if I wanted a high average speed I’d watch MotoGP, if I wanted big jumps I’d watch MX, and if I wanted a fitness test I’d watch XC. If downhill doesn’t stick to its obvious niche of steep, technical terrain it will be superseded by other forms of biking and die out. Enduro is taking an increasingly sizeable chunk out of the market. The old argument that tech, wooded tracks aren’t spectactor or tv-friendly is outdated now that Redbull have shown that excellent coverage is possible at a wide range of venues.

  32. fanboy

    1. Mick Hannah
    2. Greg Minnaar
    3. Steve Smith

    1. Manon Carpenter
    2. Rachel Atherton
    3. Emmeline Ragot

  33. Willy+W

    Listen to Steve Smith at the end you keyboard jockeys!


    Just as technical as any “technical” track! Racing is gonna be sick today..haters!


Next up in RACING

Yeti Pro Rider Diary: Jared Graves – Enduro World Series #6, Val...