Minnaar takes National Title
Minnaar Makes Triumphant Return
Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), South Africa's most successful mountain bike racer ever, made a triumphant return to competition at the weekend after a long injury layoff to capture the National Downhill Title at the 2008 Mazda MTN South African Mountain Bike Championships.
A slightly stiff shouldered Minnaar lacked some of his usual fluidity, but was certainly not lacking any speed or class as he completed two virtually identical runs down the tricky 2.9km plunge through the forest at Cascades on the western slopes of his hometown, Pietermaritzburg.
The national championships event today was his first real taste of competition after having been back on the bike for only three weeks. The 26-year-old Minnaar underwent major surgery to repair his shoulder last October.
On his first run in wet conditions, Minnaar clocked a fast 4min 38.76secs to give him a substantial cushion over his rivals going into the second run. Only defending national champion, Andrew Neethling (Mongoose Red) was able to join Minnaar in breaking five minutes in the first round with a time of 4min 51.34secs.
Wind and sunshine ensured the course dried out substantially for the second round and Neethling's second run of 4min 41.03secs was almost 10 seconds quicker than his first, bringing him a lot closer to Minnaar's time and confirming his world-class pedigree. But Minnaar, was a model of consistency, clocking a fractionally quicker 4m 38.09secs to secure his first South African title since 2002 when he lasted contested it.
"To be honest, it was quite a relief to win today," smiled Minnaar. "I'm always expected to win in South Africa and when I'm home, I'm not super focused on racing so went into the race a bit under prepared. But it all worked out okay and my shoulder never bothered me at all, although I was a bit stiff from practising in the mud on Saturday."
Neethling's younger brother, Jonty, was significantly quicker on his second run, clocking 4m 51.51secs which was good enough to give him the bronze medal in one of the highest quality downhill fields ever assembled at a South African national championships.
1 Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 4m 38.09s
2 Andrew Neethling (Mongoose Red) 4m 41.03s
3 Jonty Neethling (Morewood Fox Oakley) 4m 51.51s
4 Johann Potgieter (Cannondale) 4m 55.83s
5 Wesley Augustyn (Mongoose) 5m 00.65s
6 Chris Nixon (Cannondale) 5m 03.62s
7 Travis Browning (Morewood) 5m 03.65s
8 Greg Saharin (Giant) 5m 09.12s
Greg Minnaar cruises to his first victory aboard his new Santa Cruz.