Racing

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.

 

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 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…

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…

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

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

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

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

Dave:
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.

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