So that's the first round done and dusted, catch up on all the action, and results here. Laurence Crossman-Emms was on hand to capture what went down on the final day in Pietermaritzburg..
Jill Kintner was looking impressive all week and really was keen to make that mark here. One of here best WC results here in PMB for her, 3rd just snaking out in front of Myriam and Ragot.
Morning practice went off well with most riders getting in 2 runs. The biggest thing the riders had to battle with today was the weather, a few more degrees on yesterday making it more like 30c+ in the sun.
Qualifying first yesterday, Luca Shaw was out here for the win. Looking solid dropping in he lost a little time on Loris in the top section, but really turned it on towards the second split!
Placing the number she has been carrying all week. A great 4th place for Myriam Nicole to kick off the season, but still 9seconds off the pace, there is room to improve here before the next round.
Rachel Atherton, despite her lack of practice was able to put up a fight in her race run today. Coming down second to last she easily put 6seconds into Jill by the first split, but here lack of energy and practice on track hit hard where she slowed down toward the bottom section.
Track conditions were changing as the days went on. Hard packed and solid on Wednesday was now broken up, dusty and loose today. Some riders were finding it tricky keeping traction in the dust, especially the ones running super cuts. Morgane Charre tackling the dusty bottom section, putting her through to her 8th place finish!
If any one was to throw a cat amongst the pigeons today it would be this man. Missing out on a fast quali run yesterday he was sure to make an impression today. Dropping in with 20 more riders to come it was looking like Mick would hot seat it, but not by what we thought. Slamming it down the top section he put down one of the fastest top sections all day putting himself 1.5 seconds up already. He wanted this badly!
Steezing it all the way down the track today, Brendan was enjoying playing around on his little trail bike but unfortunately the results didn't show for it...37th in finals today, either way, nice to see him in clips!
With Mick Hannah sitting tightly in the hot seat for some time, it was all down to this man to upset the apple cart. With Mick leading by such a gap it wasn't looking possible to beat him. Gwin dropping in last after his 1st place quali yesterday and he was off to a blinder. Quickest top section all day, ringing 2.5seconds out of Mick already, carrying the momentum through and going up on the 2nd split again. All he had to do was hold on to the end!
After Wyn Masters' big crash in qualis yesterday he was lucky to make the finals. Stoked to be out riding the finals he was able to put down a 50th place run...even if the bike was too small for him!
Whipping it out and nosing it in, Sam Blenkinsop repeats his good qualifying results in finals, managing a 6th place finish, just 2 ticks behind team mate Loic. Great start for team Lapierre Republic.
Greg Williamson looking stylish and comfortable on the new red Trek. 32nd in his race run today bagging himself some needed points and looking forward to the next round in Cairns.
Group A practice rolling out after the Women and Young Guns and its always not too late to throw some shapes out on the senders. Such great variety on this track from gnarly rock sections to big flowy jumps and berms. A physical and demanding track.
Pushing hard and digging deep toward the bottom of the track. First few Elite racers on course. Here we go...lets go racing!
This is the man all the locals were here to see. After his huge achievement here last year at Champs, Greg Minaar was looking to do the unthinkable of winning here again behind his home crowd. The fans were starting to gather, the 'One Life' crew were out and the talk was getting round of can Greg do it!
Junior racing kicked off first with this man Neil Stewart of FMD to be the first man to kick off the 2014 racing season. We are into it now and there is no turning back...lets go!
Mid day sunshine beaming down hard on the riders and making things even harder especially at the last part of the track when you are really blowing out. SPS British rider Frazer McCubbing scrubbing into the bottom section of the track and into 9th place
Holding onto that number one plate tightly, Loris Vergier was not looking to loose it this round! Up at the top section but losing time on the pedals and bottom, he was only able to manage 2nd place today.
Hitting through and pushing all the way to the end, Luca pipped Loris and got the 1st place result he came for. Great result for the US junior.
Tahnee Seagrave hitting the big money maker at the bottom of the track. One of only 3 girls to even try it in their race runs. The junior world champ of last year showing she has what it takes to battle with the top girls, scoring her self a 7th place, in front of several seasoned riders.
Rachel crosses the line and it looks like she may have done what it takes. Going into the hot seat above Kintner and for once being the nervous rider waiting to watch the last women down come across the line.
Manon Carpenter was here for business this year. Missing out last year with a crash in the top section during Worlds, she was determined not to make the same mistake. Taking it easy in the top section and falling behind Rachel, she turned up the gas on the pedal pushing through and speeding all the way up to the line and leaping ahead of Rachel with an almost 4 second gap.
She finally does it, former Junior World Champion, Manon Carpenter wins her first World Cup round. She talks about her run and how excited she is to finally do it! "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/16_audio1.mp3"]
South Africans always know how to put on a show. Local riders Alasdair Fey pulls out this big look back whip on the final jump just for the crowds.
The riders starting to come down thick and fast now and the times are getting quicker and quicker, with all riders hunting for that sub 4min marker. Joe Smith 17 seconds off back in 51st place.
Storming the pedals and making up even more time, Mick was looking like he was on for a hot one.
Crossing the line and right into the hot seat with a massive 8 seconds up current leader Andrew Neethling. Was it going to be enough to stave off the likes of Gwin and Minaar?
In the search to push the boundaries of the live streaming, Red Bull have been experimenting with the UCI and GoPro to see how in race helmet cams could possibly work. It was decided that rider were able to volunteer to be a Go Pro Pilot for the day and have their race run filmed. Something that was causing a bit of talk amongst teams and rider as to whether the aero dynamics were effected and how it could work for racers. Expect to see more of this over the next few rounds.
With Rachel securing her 2nd place and young Taylor managing 7th it was all down to Gee and Marc to bring the golds home. Were GT able to get off to such a blinding season as last year? Unfortunately not this round, Beaumont managing 19th with Gee only scoring a 10th. Bike issues or rider error to blame here?
But Sam Dale doesn't quite like to end his run the ordinary way. Ruined form his run he gets loose coming over the line and manages to high side it on to his face. Ending in style is the 'Lad' way of doing it. He talks about his run and how he felt it went. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/24_audio1.mp3"]
Troy coming down first before team mate Aaron Gwin. Troy has been increasing improving race after race and is always looking stylish and fast. Great day for him as he finishes on the podium in 5th place today. Just the boost he needed as he comes into a home turf round in the next few weeks.
Another rider that was been improving two fold each year. Loic Bruni teamed with his new Red Bull sponsorship laid down the hammer today for a 4th place finish. Not the result he was after but still a great start to the season none the less. Styling it out into the finish line.
The crowds raise up and the volume gets cranked to 11 as Greg Minnaar enters the final section of the track. Engines revving and lungs screaming as it pushes Greg closer to the finish. Up at split 1 and up at 2, it looked like he was going to do it again. But just at the last few seconds he falls back and crosses the line 0.7seconds behind leader Mick Hannah. The crowd silence and hands go on heads. Still a result to be hugely pleased with after such an injury. He walks and talks about his 3rd place run "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/37_audio.mp3"]
2nd place qually for Josh Bryceland yesterday put him in great stead for today. Coming down after Gregs near miss, Josh could have pulled it back for the team. But unfortunately a mechanical in the rock garden forces him to cruise it down and only manage 43rd. Still manages to throw out some steeze for the crowds.
And here he comes...the rocket from the US of A. Aaron Gwin forces the time from no where and puts seconds into Mick, of who can be seen with his hands on his head just hoping Aaron makes a mistake. But he doesn't, and he holds onto it to the finish and takes the win with a comfortable 2 seconds to spare.
A disappointed 'One Life' crew gaze on as Greg Minnaar misses out on the top spot.
Aaron Gwin sets off for a victory lap around the Bull Pen, taking in his win...is this the return of Gwinning?
Stoked with a huge smile on his face, this is one happy man. He talks about his win and how he thought the day went. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/42_audiopr.mp3"]
Ratboy’s dropped chain causing him to miss out on his potentially high position here in PMB. He knows he is riding fast and will take this into Cairns with a fierce attack and focus to do a repeat of qualis. He talks about his experience. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/30_audio.mp3"]
Signing off here in Pietermaritzburg. What a day of seat edge racing. Join us again in a less than 2 weeks for the start of round 2 coming at you from Cairns, Australia. Thanks - Laurence
At heart disappointed but on the face stoked about his 4th place. Loic Bruni will be thinking hard going into the next round...he is hunting for that number 1 spot and with the pressure building it can only go two ways.
Junior podium for today, Luca Shaw followed by Loris Vegier and Amaury Pierron.
Manon Carpenter stands tall on the top step for the first time but also joined by Jill who has had her best result in a while also. Rachel and Ragot will both be looking to take out Manon at the next round but she wont go down without a fight.
Team Madison Saracen taking overall team of the day for the first time. Sam Dale and Matt Simmonds both putting down the hammer with top 15 runs. Sam should get a prize just for the most gracious finish!
All the media want a glimpse of this podium. Aaron Gwin standing on the number 1 place for the first time since his Trek days whilst Mick Hannah stares broken into the sunset, he thought he had it this time!
There it is, Gwin, Hannah, Minnaar on the top steps here in PMB, an unpredictable result but a very exciting start to what is only going to be an amazing season of racing!
Aaron sporting off his leaders jersey which him and Manon will be taking into the next round.
The good results kept coming for the Madison Saracen DH Team, Sam Dale with a thundering run finishing best British place in 7th!