Tough going for SA team at MTB World Champs

South Africa’s mountain bike team took part in the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, from 2-7 September.

Our men and women’s cross-country teams struggled to keep contact with the best in the world on what would’ve been most likely the toughest course of the year to crown the World Champion in a once-off event.

James Reid faired very well in the u23 race, with a 10th place finish on the demanding track. Dutch rider Michiel van der Heijden claimed the World title in this category, with Jordan Sarrou (FRA) finishing second and American Howard Grotts (USA) claiming the bronze medal. SA National u23 Champion, Gert Heyns, finished in 50th place while William Mokgopo finished in 79th, three laps down.

The piping hot Elite men’s race became an expected duel between previous World Champions Nino Schurter (SUI) and Julien Absalon (FRA), with Absalon pouncing on Schurter on the fourth lap in what appeared to be a well-executed plan. Absalon claimed his fifth World Championship title, with Schurter finishing second and Italian Marco Fontana third. London 2012 Olympian, Philip Buys, finished in 42nd position, 11 minutes 36 seconds off the pace, with SA National Champion Rourke Croeser finishing 55th, 1 lap down.

The u23 women’s race saw Jolande Neff (SUI) claim her third consecutive World Championship title as she continued her dominant form in this discipline. Frenchwoman Margot Moschetti finished second, with Linda Indergand (SUI) third. Candice Neethling finished in 32nd place.

The Junior Men’s race saw SA National Champion Alan Hatherly finish 56th in a race that was won by Simon Andreassen (DEN). Egan Bernal (COL) claimed the silver medal with Luca Schwarzbauer claiming the bronze medal. Frances du Toit finished in 26th place in the Junior Women’s race, with Nicole Koller (SUI) taking the gold medal, and Malene Degn and Sina Frei taking silver and bronze medals respectively.

Absent from the cross-country racing was Elite Women’s National Champion Mariske Strauss, who was overcoming her injuries sustained in the crash she suffered at the Commonwealth Games, and Julian Jessop, also recovering from a bad crash in the lead up to the World Championships.

There was great representation from South Africa in the final of the Downhill race on Sunday, however our riders also faced difficulty in competing for top honours. The challenging course witnessed many crashes. South Africa’s defending World Champion, Greg Minnaar, made contact with a tree during his descent and lost valuable seconds when he suffered a puncture, which placed him out of contention.

Riders started in the order according to their World Cup rankings. Even though Minnaar set fastest time in the timed session the day before, he started 6th from the end in the final run. Andrew Neethling put in a smooth run but was just not quick enough to take the hot seat. Needles was South Africa’s highest downhill finisher, in 21st place. Also competing was SA National Downhill Champion Tiaan Odendaal, Samuel Bull and Stefan Garlicki, who finished in 56th, 61st and 64th places respectively.

Great Britain’s Gee Atherton was crowned World Champion, with compatriot Josh Bryceland finishing second in spectacular fashion when he overjumped a wooden bridge near the finish, breaking his ankle in the process. Bryceland narrowly missed the gold medal by half a second. Aussie Troy Brosnan claimed the bronze medal.

SA Junior National Champion Andrew Martin finished 28th and 22 seconds off the pace in the Junior contest, with Gregg Brown finishing in 49th place. The Junior Men’s race saw Loris Vergier (FRA) claim the gold medal, while Laurie Greenland (GBR) finished second and Jacob Dickson (IRL) third.

Summary of results – 2014 UCI MTB World Championships – Hafjell (NOR)

Click here for the full results list:

Cross-country (XCO)

Elite Men

1 Julien ABSALON (FRA) 01:27:06
2 Nino SCHURTER (SUI) +1:51
3 Marco Aurelio FONTANA (ITA) +3:28
42 Philip BUYS (RSA) +11:36
55 Rourke CROESER (RSA) -1LAP

U23 Men 

1 Michiel VAN DER HEIJDEN (NED) 01:18:40
2 Jordan SARROU (FRA) +49
3 Howard GROTTS (USA) +1:12
10 James REID (RSA) +3:16
50 Gert HEYNS (RSA) +11:38
79 William MOKGOPO (RSA) -3LAP

U23 Women

1 Jolanda NEFF (SUI) 01:17:49
2 Margot MOSCHETTI (FRA) +1:47
3 Linda INDERGAND (SUI) +1:53
32  Candice NEETHLING (RSA) +15:08

Junior Men 

1 Simon ANDREASSEN (DEN) 01:08:49
2 Egan BERNAL (COL) +37
56  Alan HATHERLY (RSA) +11:18

Junior Women

1 Nicole KOLLER (SUI) 01:06:16
2 Malene DEGN (DEN) +1:06
3 Sina FREI (SUI) +1:27
26  Frances DU TOIT (RSA) +13:38

Downhill (DHI)

Elite Men

1 Gee ATHERTON (GBR) 3:23.769
2 Josh BRYCELAND (GBR) +0.407
3 Troy BROSNAN (AUS) +0.566
21 Andrew NEETHLING (RSA) +7.284
30 Greg MINNAAR (RSA) +10.064
56 Tiaan ODENDAAL (RSA) +18.157
61 Samuel BULL (RSA) +21.698
64  Stefan GARLICKI (RSA) +23.138

Junior Men 

1 Loris VERGIER (FRA) 3:29.090
2 Laurie GREENLAND (GBR) +4.990
3 Jacob DICKSON (IRL) +7.294
28 Andrew MARTIN (RSA) +22.809
49 Gregg BROWN (RSA) +34.749