The 2016 UCI MTB World Downhill Championships took place in Val di Sole, Italy at the weekend, and Team SA described the course as one of the most challenging that they have faced yet.
The riders were met with tough conditions and a bone dry, steep course, with deep dust, roots and rocks from top to bottom. The physical nature of the track took its toll on not just the fresh faces, but also the more experienced riders of Downhill.
South African superstar and multi World Cup medallist, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) finished seventh in his final run, and said: “Worlds was one hell of a race and I just really didn’t have the hand strength towards the end to be able to push it as hard as I needed to, which is just unfortunate.”
The three-time World Champion has been bike testing in Val di Sole to get ready ahead of next season. “All-in-all, I’m happy to leave there in one piece,” he said.
South African Elite Men’s Champion, Stefan Garlicki (Investec) finished 57th with a time of 4:07, and Johann Potgieter, 72nd with a time of 4:22, despite two crashes during his race.
“Worlds is always a highlight for me in the year and hanging with the South African Team is such a good vibe,” said Potgieter.
When chatting about the course, he said: “Val di Sole is always a track where I feel like I can go fast. I feel confident on the rough terrain and I’m not afraid of the track or anything. A full run is really tough, though.”
He mentioned that no tracks in South Africa could prepare the riders for the beating that their arms take on a track like Val di Sole. “We need to train on tracks like those overseas, but its hard with the South African Passports as we are only allowed 90 days in six months, which is mostly taken up by the races, he said.
Potgieter had an unfortunate run-in with a red flag due to a rider crashing ahead of him, three quarters of the way down his race run, which meant for him a re-run. “It was basically like running an 800m race and then after 600m someone stops you. So after giving it your all, you have to do it again,” he said. All in all, Potgieter said that he was happy to get away injury-free. He commended the work of the team manager and mechanic, having done a great job.
“I’ve been racing overseas since 2004, and that was probably the toughest track I’ve ever raced on. Hats off to the juniors who raced, and thank you to Cycling South Africa for the support,” he concluded.
Lapierre’s Christopher Philogene enjoyed his race, but also commented on the physical toll taken on his upper body: “It was pretty hard to put a full run together, but I just tried to get down as smoothly as possible. It was hard on the arms and hands.”
Philogene finished in 40th place in the Junior race. “It wasn’t the best result for me, but I was just happy that I had made it down without crashing or making any stupid mistakes, which was very easy to do on a track like this. The mechanic and manager helped out a lot, and it was a really good time,” he said.
His brother, Johnathan, was looking slick and confident on the track, until a crash on his timed run, which later resulted in the decision and recommendation by management and medical professionals for him not to race due to a minor head injury.
Cullen McMaster said: “The race went well. I put down a safe run and got to the bottom in one piece.”
McMaster also mentioned that the Val di Sole track was the toughest he’d ever ridden, and was tough on his hands. “Otherwise the weekend was awesome, the World Champs vibe was so cool, a once in a life time experience,” he concluded.
Team Manager, Sam Bull, described the track as one of the “gnarliest” he had seen. “It was the roughest, and certainly the most physically demanding,” he added.
On the track, Bull said: “The guys weren’t able to push as hard as they needed to, but they weren’t alone. They had to ride a lot tighter than they had wanted to because they couldn’t manage the speeds that they wanted to ride.”
Bull enjoyed the experience and said that the World Championships was awesome to watch, packed with action. “We were busy flat out with bike issues and one or two injuries, but a really great time was had,” he said.
To see the full set of results from the 2016 UCI World Downhill MTB Championships, see below:
Junior Men: http://www.valdisolebikeland.com/_files/f_media/2016/09/1217.pdf
Elite Men: http://www.valdisolebikeland.com/_files/f_media/2016/09/1219.pdf