Cape Town’s Andrew Neethling (Trek) responded well to hometown pressure when he won the first round of mountain biking’s MTN National Cup Series downhill event in Stellenbosch, South Africa on Sunday.
Neethling, who ended 2008 at 14th on the UCI world rankings and who finished 11th in the 2008 UCI World Cup, clocked a time of two minutes and 11.34 seconds for the fast, narrow descent through the forests of Jonkershoek.
Johann Potgieter (Cannondale) secured second place, just less than five seconds back with Neethling’s younger brother, Jonty Neethling (Morewood Fox), rounding out the top three places in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd that had braved the hot, dusty conditions.
Riding a brand new Trek Session 88, which was only released from customs last Wednesday, Neethling set out on his first of two runs to get familiar with the bike with the intention of improving his time with his second and final run.
“I made a few small mistakes near the top on the first run but was really pushing hard in what was basically a ‘feeler’ run, which I felt was necessary since I was riding not only a new bike, but a new brand and haven’t done a race for quite a while,” explained Neethling who ended up clocking his winning time with that run.
“On the second run I went out a bit harder at the top, overshot a turn on what is a really narrow course and had a small crash. I thought I could still rescue the run, but a couple of errors further on left me well off my first run time.
“Luckily my first run was a solid one! There are some big expectations when you come home to do a race. You are expected to win so it’s quite a relief, although the aborted second run left me feeling a bit frustrated. It’s still feels good to win, especially in front of friends and family.”
South Africa’s 2008 World Cup champion, Greg Minnaar, missed the event as he is currently in the United States.
The MTN National Cup is a series of five International Cycling Union Category 2 events, which take place throughout South Africa. Round 2 will be held at Mankele, Nelspruit on 7 and 8 February.
MTN National Cup
Downhill – Round 1
1 Andrew Neethling – Trek 2:11.34
2 Johann Potgieter – Cannondale 2:16.25
3 Jonty Neethling – Morewood Fox 2:18.15
4 Gary Barnard – Morewood Fox 2:19.69
5 Pierre van der Merwe 2:20.58
The top five men overall were (from left) Pierre van der Merwe (fifth), Jonty Neethling (third), Andrew Neethling (first), Johann Potgieter (second) and Gary Barnard (fourth).
Photos: GARY PERKIN
Andrew Neethling wins his first mountain bike downhill for Trek at Stellenbosch, South Africa