Superstar photographers Victor Lucas and Sebastian Schieck give us twenty banging World Cup photos from a bloody exciting qualifying session at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa!
The Mystery Rider competition is back! You lucky lucky people!
Greg Minnaar - The local boy done good today with a fastest qualifying time, but only .008sec ahead of Aaron Gwin. It's shaping up to be a close rematch from last year.
It's not just the riders who have switched teams over the off-season - here we have the dastardly duo of Will Ockelton and Rob Warner who are not quite re-united but close enough - Will is working for the UCI this year. Warner is back on the mouth piece to put some colour into the commentary... [audio:http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Rob-2.mp3]
On a track like this every tiny percentage gain is worth working for and the teams will go to extreme lengths in pursuit of perfection. I grabbed this shot in the Santa Cruz pits and after a bit of persistent bribery, Jason eventually gave me the inside info on what that little thing is on the wheel... Its a tiny lead weight. When riders are hitting speeds of 50mph, with a hand-cut tyre and the variation in inner tubes, valve stems etc - then surely that’s a case for having a perfectly balanced wheel.
Third place qualifier for Stevie Smith. He hammered through the tech sections and seems to have an extra edge of fitness this season.
Tracey Hannah is back with a vengeance. She looks strong and fearless, qualifying first with a 3.5 second margin ahead of Emmeline Ragot.
4th place for Gee Atherton, he has been slamming every turn, boosting every jump and hammering through all the tech stuff this week. He is on a mission for sure.
Aaron Gwin was incredibly close to Gregs time today. But he seems calm and confident, definitely saving something for Sunday. [audio:http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Aaron.mp3]
To anyone who says you have to be big to carry speed, Troy Brosnan has an answer for that theory. 5th place qualifier today continues his run of good form in the recent Australian series. [audio:http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/troy.mp3]
2nd spot for Emmeline Ragot. Big changes for her coming to the MS Mondraker team, but it seems to be working well so far. [audio:http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Emmeline.mp3]
And the mystery rider is back... Actually yesterday every rider was a bit of a mystery to me, with all the new kit around. So if you can figure out who this is, let our man 'Back at Base Billy' know and he'll send you one of Mikes finest pottery ornaments.
Greg Minnaar entering the flat pedaling section after scoring almost 70 kph in the speed trap in the Gully section before. Photo:Sebastian Schieck
Steve Smith qualified in 3rd today only 0,8 seconds behind Minnaar and Gwin. Leaving no doubt that he is all in to battle for the win on sunday. Photo:Sebastian Schieck
Andrew Neethling holding the South African colours high with a top ten result today. Looking forward to the finals sunday. Photo:Sebastian Schieck
Death grip mode. Mick Hannah blasting down the high speed Gully section. Putting your fingers on the brakes would just slow you down, I guess. Photo:Sebastian Schieck
Jared Graves putting down some horse power and a fast qualifier to 9th today. Photo:Sebastian Schieck [audio:http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Graves_Quali.mp3]
Gee Atherton ended up in 4th today not that far behind the fastest times and in striking distance for sunday´s finals. Photo:Sebastian Schieck
Jared Graves is not the only top 4-Cross rider that switched back to his downhill bike this year. Johannes Fischbach will be racing all the World Cups as well. With number 142 he was one of the last riders on the track today, ending up with a solid 16th place.
Tracy Hannah was just flying down the hill this afternoon. Impressive 3.5 seconds faster then the rest of the field. Photo:Sebastian Schieck
5th fastest in qualifying with the second fastest top split today. Whatever Troy Brosnan did to prepare for 2012, it seems to have worked pretty damm good. Photo:Sebastian Schieck [audio:http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Troy_Quali.mp3]
The video-guys are stepping up their game this year as well. Clay Porter and the Parkins (DirtTV) brought their new Red cameras out to South Africa, capturing everything almost more detailed than in reality. Photo:Sebastian Schieck