South Africa’s Greg Minnaar mastered treacherous conditions to win the 17th World Cup victory of his career at Sunday’s UCI Mountain Bike World Cup event at Fort William, Scotland
After the women’s race saw rider after rider crashing, Rachel Atherton came out tops, saying it was ‘one of the hardest races of my entire life.
‘It was horrendous; the track was ridiculous in the woods, it was a mess. It was just survival, I was suffering. This morning after qualifying, I thought that I was just riding for damage limitation. I’ve got a trapped nerve in my neck and it’s making my arms really weak. I thought I just had to go out there and try my hardest; I crashed three times in qualifying, so I can’t believe it, that I won,’ reports the UCI website.
For the men, the wind continued to dry out the upper, open section of the track and the sun came out, but the wooded middle part stayed extremely muddy and rut-filled. causing numerous crashes.
Florent Payent (CK Racing) set the first sub-5 minute time, until an earlier rider, George Brannigan (Trek World Racing), received a rerun, to set the leading time of 4:55.760 . Brannigan’s time was still holding up as Round One winner Aaron Gwin (Specialized) started with 11 riders to go, but Gwin was clearly on a good run. Five seconds up by Split 1, Gwin was floating through sections where others struggled, and crossed the line with the first sub-4:50 time, and the first to beat Loic Bruni’s (Lapierre Gravity Republic) fastest qualifying time.
The next rider down the course, Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Giant Factory), slotted in just under three seconds back, while world champion Gee Atherton (GT Factory), a two-time winner at Fort William, had a strong start but faded to finish three seconds back of Gwin.
Then Minnaar, at 33, the oldest racer in the top 50, came blazing through the second split half a second up on Gwin and padded his lead to finish 1.119 seconds ahead, with four riders left to race. Minnaar’s time was 4min 47.69sec.
Defending champion Troy Brosnan (Specialized) struggled and was not in contention and neither was Danny Hart (MS Mondraker), third from last, or Michael Jones (Chain Reaction Cycles/Paypal) second from last. The only rider left was World Cup overall leader Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic), but he could not manage better than seventh.
‘It was super tough out there, we’ve been riding in the wet all week,’ explained Minnaar, ‘so the conditions were completely different today, even between the Qualifying and the Final. It was drying up through the day so it was a completely different track and I didn’t know what to expect.
‘I was crying when I knew I had won; it was so emotional.’
In the overall standings Gwin moved into the lead with 374 points, followed by Bruni at 350, and Minnaar moves up to third at 281 points.
Picture courtesy of Gameplan Media