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Schladming Syndicate Special

Just got back to the office after what seemed like an eternity in Schladming (I got there way too early). Anyway back at my desk with a cup of tea sifting through emails…Kathy Sessler has sent a load of Syndicate photos which are worth a gander.

I wouldn’t mind this Schladming police officer taking down my particulars.

Here’s the brief from the Syndicate:

Greg went into the finale as the point’s leader 116 points up on Sam Hill. Both Greg and Sam’s performances seemed to suffer with the burden of the points on their backs. Hill was the expected race favorite as he has won at Schladming a number of times, but his time was eclipsed in the end by a spectacular performance by young New Zealander Sam Blenkinsop winning his first world cup race with a 1.64 margin.

Steve Peat went in with fourth place points that would not change with any points shifting, so he had nothing to loose and rode a strong race to place 4th on the day, and 4th overall. Nathan Rennie, after being sick in Canberra and placing 2nd there had been struggling with illness since and nearly didn’t come to Schladming feeling that he couldn’t travel. He put in a valiant effort towards the team overall qualifying 9th, and placing 19th in the final picking up 47 points for the team which gave the Syndicate the margin of 36 points over the Animal Commencal team needed to take the overall team title. Rennie finished the series 7th overall.

Greg says this about the race and winning the title, “All week there was obviously a lot of pressure on from being so close to winning the overall. It’s not because of the race, as such, but because you are so close to winning it that you don’t want to loose it. Sam and I both had a lot of pressure on both of us and I think it affected both our riding. I don’t feel I rode to my full potential.
My race was hard. I started off really comfortable, I felt good and after just a little slip up top I decided to back things off a bit because I didn’t want to risk a crash or anything else. I heard someone shout at me on the course that I was going slow. I was thinking a lot of stuff and I just didn’t want to crash. I think from that aspect it was a pretty bad race, so at the bottom I wasn’t really that stoked just because of the fact that I didn’t have a good race. It felt pretty bland and I also didn’t have all the adrenaline pumping from having a good ride, so it was mixed emotions at the bottom, even knowing that I had just won the overall.”

Photos:Kathy Sessler.

Saturday saw the realisation of goal that behind it had a lot of hard work, especially in the off season, and that goal was to reclaim the World Cup title that injury and bad luck have prevented Greg from defending for the past 2 years.

The newly crowned 2008 World Cup Champion can now add that to his World Cup overall titles of 2001 and 2005, and join Peaty as the only men to have won the series 3 times. Nico Vouilloz is ahead of them with 5 series wins.

Greg came into the season after evaluating all the tracks in advance and knew he had to have at least 100 points in hand before arriving at the finals in Schladming. His previous two races there have been top 5 results, but with a dodgy shoulder in 2007, and a deeply bruised calf muscle, that had no power, back in 2006. This year he was 100% fit but still had the pressure of getting the job done, with rain and other factors beyond his control.

There were some nervous moments just after the semi final got started when Greg was sure his time was not good enough for the top 4 place he needed. But after Sam came down with a time that was not as fast as expected, and three other riders went faster than him, Greg was happy to only concede 5 points to Sam, which was less than planned. It was thought he would lose up to 20.

This meant that the shift of pressure had moved much more to Sam’s side for the final, as Greg had an 111 point advantage and only needed a top 7 result. He also knew that if any of those 3 riders, Gee Atherton, Sam Blenkinsop or Brendan Fairclough, went ahead of Sam as they did in a race-like semi, Greg only needed top 12.

More importantly, he knew that if he took the hotseat as he crossed the line, mathematically he had it. Despite doing that, Greg refrained from season end celebrations until all the guys had come in.

Greg – “It’s such a relief you know, because you come here with the leader’s jersey on your back, so it’s almost yours, and you know that so much can happen in this sport that could take it away. Even though I knew I had it when I crossed the line and only 5 guys were left to come down, I still couldn’t quite believe it. After last year where the shoulder was a major problem for me, and in Brazil where some sharp object sliced my tyre open on track in the final, after getting the fastest split and knowing I could have won the series that year, this is a great feeling. I have a great team and the support from home in SA has been amazing”.

There’s only three basic ways to win the World Cup title; before the finals in convincing fashion, from behind at the last round, and from the front at the last round. Greg has now done all three. Even more sweet is that he knows his next World Cup race will be in his home town of Pietermartizburg next April, where he will proudly wear the number 1 plate and hope to start off the 2009 season with a win.

UCI DOWNHILL SERIES OVERALL RESULTS:

1) GREG MINNAAR (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 1354
2) Sam Hill 1293
3) Gee Atherton 1207
4) STEVE PEAT (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 1099
5) Sam Blenkinsop 794
6) Fabien Barel 717
7) NATHAN RENNIE (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 620
8) Justin Leov 614
9) Chris Kovarik 608
10) Julien Camellini 505
32) JOSH BRYCELAND 184 JUNIOR WORLD CUP CHAMPION

DOWNHILL FINAL RESULTS:

1) Sam Blenkinsop 4:10.16
2) Sam Hill 4:11.80
3) Gee Atherton 4:12.36
4) STEVE PEAT (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 4:13.20
5) GREG MINNAAR (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 4:17.56
6) Justin Leov 4:18.33
7) Fabien Barel 4:18.49
8) Aaron Gwin 4:21.44
9) Mitch Delfs 4:21.60
10) Andrew Neethling 4:21.87
19) NATHAN RENNIE (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 4:24.40

UCI MTB TEAM STANDINGS:

1) SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE 618
2) Animal Commencal 582
3) Yeti Fox 351
4) Monster Energy/Iron Horse 325
5) Team Maxxis 303
6) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense 257
7) Playbiker/Iron Horse 247
8) Subaru Mt. Bike Team 246
9) Suspension Center 246
10) Kona 228

Schladming Syndicate Special

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