World Cup 2011 Round 1, Pietermaritzburg | Welcome to the Jungle
Seven months is a long time to wait for anything, but if you are a World Cup race fan seven months is an eternity...
Seven months is a long time to wait for anything, sure you may have to wait nine months for your first–born but if you are a World Cup race fan seven months is an eternity...
From Dirt Issue 112 - June 2011
Words by Sven Martin, Photos by Various
I’m sure the riders welcome the break, at first that is. A month or three of routineless fun, waking up in your own bed, eating and drinking what you want, taking a holiday without excess luggage; all the things normal people take for granted. Soon enough though it’s back in the gym and pounding out lonely miles and lung busting intervals. Cross training in the snow and cold for some, warm southern–hemi locals for others. Most are testing minor tweaks and a few new parts and suspension while others have fresh beginnings on new bikes with new teammates to come to terms with.
Seven months for World Cup punters on the internet on the other hand is like a long drawn out feeding frenzy. Riders movements, Tweets and Facebook profiles are stalked, every action serves to fuel rampant e–speculation. Expectations, conclusions and predictions are made on the various forums and Dirt Fantasy League teams are picked. Some random facts gleaned from the information superhighway over the off–season can paint a distorted and cluttered picture that only Jackson Pollock would be proud of. Bryceland clipped in, Gwin on a new diet trained by Tomac, Minnaar injury free off–season, Barel fit and winning Enduros, Gee jet–setting concussions, Hannah healed, Riffle left Cali for snowy roots, Peat strong as steel and wont back down, Sam Hill tanned and tattooed, Beaumont riding road bikes and winning downhills, Moseley on Epic rides and Fairclough shocker…in the gym and smashing out miles. Yes lots of random facts, but if you can read between the lines there are a few useful morsels out there.>>
Click through to keep reading...
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Now lets get back to the topic of this not being a worthy World Cup track. Some of the arguments:
Argument/Myth #1: Too long
Well time wise, both Fort William and Mont St Anne take almost 30 seconds longer, I for one would rather see this ‘long’ track of PMB than a truncated two minute dash with no pedaling or variety of terrain to separate the riders. It was a sin when Mt St Anne was shortened, and while Canberra’s super close times made it exciting there was just not enough racing in my opinion.
Argument/Myth #2: Too much pedaling
Was there a lot? Yes. The most on any track on the 2011schedule? That’s debatable. While this track certainly demands the biggest physical effort in the fitness power and endurance departments for a DH race, is that altogether a bad thing? These are the sport’s greatest professionals. Some highly paid. They have had seven months to prepare for this race. Most of the complaining came from those less prepared and out of the top twenty. Formula 1 and Super–X all have markedly different tracks each round and major adjustments and modifications are made with set–up and equipment choice accordingly. The final podium showed no surprises, all regulars, with Sam Hill only half a second off. This is not NASCAR, I welcome the variety and as great a track as Schladming is even seven rounds there would get boring for race fans.
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Ultimately this is a World Cup series with the emphasis being on the words ‘World’ and ‘series’. Mountain biking is happening all over the world and not just at privileged places with ski lifts and gondolas. The Aussies and Brits are proof of this fact. The racing shouldn’t have to be squeezed into five short months and only held in Europe, UK and North America. To be taken seriously as a sport and as a world–renowned series it needs to spread its wings and grow. Promoters like Max Cluer from small countries like South Africa should be praised for getting their act together and running a smooth triple (XC, DH and 4X) event, no small task when mighty nations like the US haven’t seemed to be able to get it right for so long (Windham aside). World Cups are more than just tracks, and while I would love to see a race close to the steep mountains and beaches of Cape Town, it takes people and a whole community’s support to host a World Cup. The whole town of Pietermaritzburg is behind this event and that’s what it takes. I’d welcome a return to South America, Australia, Asia and what about New Zealand? The opposite hemispheres need to be taken advantage of and World Cup racing really must continue to be just that, WORLD Cup. As one stop in a series of races I see no harm in challenging rider’s physical prowess from time to time, a series is designed to test every aspect of racer and machine. Pietermaritzburg is perfect for this. Tyres were cut, suspension tweaked, adjustable seat posts employed by some, all of this just added to the intrigue and unknown ‘X Factor’ of the race. After all the talk, hype, tactics and preparation for the pedal section of the track, the race was not won here, I did not miss the irony. It just served to prove my point. More on that later.
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In the women’s there were no surprises with predicted favourite and 2009’s winner Tracy Moseley taking top spot almost six seconds clear of Floriane Pugin, who was fastest at the top and was looking most comfortable on the jumps. Tracy had been in South Africa racing the eight day Cape Epic XC stage race with Anka Martin and all those miles and training over the winter have definitely crossed over into a good base for the downhill season. With another full day for practice and recovery with intermittent rain finals was going to still be wide open.
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The women’s final ended up being a lot tighter race than everyone imagined…the racers included I think. It was a forgone conclusion for most that Tracy Moseley would take the win. Her maiden race in the Rainbow stripes and in obvious good form after the Cape Epic as her qualifier showed. But the track had sped up and the pedaling became easier, the other riders also dug deeper. A lot deeper. In the end it was not Tracy who was fastest at any one of the splits. It was Emmeline Ragot in the first sector, then team mate Fionn Griffiths in the energy sapping second sector and Sabrina Jonnier in the last sector. Tracy seemed fatigued from the last two days of riding, straight into team camp and the provincial race, having little recovery and time off after the Cape Epic it was finally catching up with her, but she hung on for a consistently strong run from top to bottom. She could hear the announcers saying it was going to be close near the finish line and she gave it all she could for the win. Hats off to Fionn though for another second place finish for the weekend, a good start to her newly formed Griffiths Racing team with third place finisher Ragot.
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Gwin never had bad things to say about the course nor the pedaling, not once. Rather as a true professional he focused on the task at hand, he was enjoying the speed and having fun at the top. He said it all felt quite easy compared to the previous weekend’s effort when he won (fastest qualifier) the later abandoned national round in monsoonal conditions on the same track. He said compared to that the pedaling was a breeze.
1. Aaron Gwin TREK WORLD RACING 4:08.634
2. Greg Minnaar SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE 4:08.875 +00.241
3. Gee Atherton COMMENCAL 4:10.555 +01.921
4. Fabien Barel MONDRAKER 4:12.880 +04.246
5. Steve Peat SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE 4:15.443 +06.809
1. Tracy Moseley TREK WORLD RACING 4:56.166
2. Fionn Griffiths TEAM GR 4:56.454 +00.288
3. Emmeline Ragot TEAM GR 4:57.750 +01.584
4. Sabrina Jonnier MAXXIS–ROCKY MOUNTAIN 4:58.339 +02.173
5. Floriane Pugin SCOTT 11 4:58.434 +02.268
1. Jared Graves YETI FOX SHOX
2. Michal Prokop
3. Johannes Fischbach GHOST
4. Michal Marosi RSP
5. David Graf
1. Anneke Beerten MILKA TREK MTB
2. Fionn Griffiths TEAM GR
3. Céline Gros MORZINE-AVORIAZ/HAUTE-SAVOIE
4. Lucia Oetjen
5. Anita Molcik