The downhill mountain biking gods were smiling on the South African athletes at the 2013 UCI MTB Masters World Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg as the local stars claimed four of the eight titles up for grabs across both the men’s and women’s categories on Saturday afternoon.
The South African gold rush started with Rika Olivier powering her way to victory in the women’s 40-49 downhill class before Chris Nixon (45-49), Myles Kelsey (40-44) and Nigel Hicks (30-34) got in on the act in the men’s categories.
The strength of France’s downhill competitors is felt at every international competition with this year’s Masters event being no different as Tifenn Vialatte (women’s 30-39), Jean-Pierre Bruni (men’s 50-54) and Cyril Meslier (35-39) claimed three of the four remaining gold medals, with Austrian Max Schuster claiming the final top honours of the day in the men’s 55+ division.
Hicks’ victory proved to be one of the most popular feats of the event thus far as the large crowd rallied behind the man responsible for both the Masters’ and Elite competition’s popular courses. He raced to victory ahead of France’s Ludovic Corré and Bazil’s Rogerio Pauli Jnr.
“This is beyond my wildest dreams!” said an ecstatic Hicks. “I came here hoping for a top three and definitely never ever expected to stand a chance of winning. Building the track over the past few weeks and months meant my training routine went out of the window, but I was always going to give it my all and things just worked out perfectly for me today.
Despite having put his life and soul into the preparation of the course, Hicks will need to be back out on ‘the hill’ first thing in the morning, preparing and repairing the track for the elite competition, which gets underway on Tuesday.
Kelsey’s (40-44) victory, ahead of USA’s Matt Thompson and Sean Schlebusch of South Africa, carried extra special meaning for the local star. “My father passed away in December last year and he was the one who brought me to my first track in Pietermaritzburg all those years ago and introduced me to cycling, so I’d like to dedicate the win to him!” said Kelsey. “He was with me throughout my ride and he definitely gave me extra motivation to do well.
“I worked so hard for this for the past 13 months or so, so to have won really is special! Four years ago, at the World Cup here in Pietermaritzburg, I was lying on my back with a broken collar bone in exactly the same place we’re standing today after crashing out on the final jump. So, when I heard the World Champs was going to be held here this year, I knew it was my one and only opportunity to get revenge on the course!”
Nixon made the World Champion’s rainbow striped jersey his own when the SA national champ flew home ahead of compatriot Julien Louw and France’s Didier Blondel.
“I couldn’t have given any more than I did out there today. Never did I think the World Champs would be here in South Africa so it’s even sweeter to have won it on home soil,” said Nixon. “I didn’t have the greatest build up to the event due to work commitments in the past two to three weeks, and then the course changed quite a bit over the past few days due to the traffic that’s been on it, so I was a little tense at the start but once I started I relaxed a little bit and just hit my lines throughout and kept it smooth,” he added.
Cyril Meslier put in a stellar run to claim his category’s title however the Frenchman was somewhat fortunate to take the title after a superb effort from Brazil’s Sousa Alcides ended his probable title challenge.
Alcides crashed out spectacularly on the renowned ‘Money Maker’ after suffering a rear tyre blowout, and was then forced to run up the final obstacle before limping home to eventually claim third. South Africa’s Robin Rumbelow claimed second.
“I’m very happy,” said Meslier afterwards. “I’ve been riding downhill for ten years and BMX for 20 and I’ve been preparing for this race since last year so it’s great to have won. I did 10-12 runs on the course beforehand so I was confident before today. I crashed in the timed run yesterday but that didn’t worry me because I knew yesterday wasn’t important – today was what it was all about so I’m very happy!” added the French national champ.
Rika Olivier, who soared to victory in the women’s 40+ category, overcame her apprehension of the section of the course which saw her crash out on during training and claim the gold medal ahead of regular local rival Gina Nixon and New Zealand’s Sharon Heap.
“I was obviously hoping for a bigger field but I am still over the moon that I have a World Championship!” said Olivier. “Gina and I are both from Cape Town and have been racing each other for years so I knew what to expect from her and I knew she was going to pedal hard, so I had to counter that. I fell quite hard on day one of training so when I got to that section during the race I was quite apprehensive but when I got through it today I was confident I could win,” she added.
The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from 21 to 25 August.
More info can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Summary of Results - UCI MTB Masters World Championships
DHI Women - 30-39
1 Tifenn Vialatte (FRA) 5:58.336
2 Simone Futter (SUI) 6:13.297
3 Kathryn Fourie (RSA) 6:24.522
4 Michelle Speirs (RSA) 6:53.766
DHI Women - 40-49
1 Rika Olivier (RSA) 5:20.002
2 Gina Nixon (RSA) 5:29.395
3 Sharon Heap (NZL) 9:37.705
DHI Men - 30-34
1 Nigel Hicks (RSA) 4:47.577
2 Ludovic Corré (FRA) 4:50.562
3 Rogerio Pauli Jnr (BRA) 4:54.732
4 Devon Katzen (RSA) 4:54.935
5 Laurestant Jean-Max (FRA) 4:55.640
DHI Men - 35-39
1 Cyril Meslier (FRA) 4:35.295
2 Robin Rumbelow (RSA) 4:47.417
3 Sousa Alcides (BRA) 4:53.934
4 Joseph Bauckham (CAN) 4:54.729
5 Matt Smith (RSA) 4:58.579
DHI Men - 40-44
1 Myles Kelsey (RSA) 4:37.001
2 Matt Thompson (USA) 4:38.486
3 Sean Schlebusch (RSA) 5:11.937
4 Beau White (RSA) 5:20.544
5 Craig Mccosh (RSA) 5:22.495
DHI Men - 45-49
1 Chris Nixon (RSA) 4:42.199
2 Julien Louw (RSA) 4:58.823
3 Didier Blondel (FRA) 5:22.885
4 Antônio Gonçalves (BRA) 6:09.791
5 Georg Danner (AUT) 6:28.938
DHI Men - 50-54
1 Jean-Pierre Bruni (FRA) 5:02.996
2 Benoit Fellay (SUI) 5:07.351
3 Jean Fred Tissot (SUI) 5:08.370
4 Darrell Jamieson (USA) 5:14.204
5 Gorazd Strazisar (SLO) 5:16.460
DHI Men - 55-59
1 Max Schuster (AUT) 5:11.392
2 Patrick Sicard (FRA) 5:14.836
3 Paul Morris (RSA) 5:22.333
4 Claude Gex (SUI) 6:10.328
5 Clive Gaven (RSA) 6:10.876
Issued on behalf of 2013 UCI MTB World Champs – PMB
Photo: Course designer Nigel Hicks powered to a remarkable victory in the men's 30-34 downhill event at the UCI MTB Masters World Championships 2013 at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg © Darren Goddard/Gameplan Media