Johann Potgieter has won every major race in George since 2006 and he proved unbeatable again over the course in the MTN South African Downhill Mountain Bike Championships.
The course is one of the most physically demanding in the country, with plenty of berms, jumps and a high percentage of pedalling required. The 22-year-old Capetonian clocked a first run time 3min 25.02sec down the challenging 2km course, giving him the early lead by more than two seconds over Jonty Neethling (Fox/Morewood).
Potgieter’s second run was more than a second slower than his first and a motivated Neethling improved his time by just under a second, making it a tight finish between two of the pre-race favourites with Potgieter ultimately taking the gold by a second-and-a-half from Neethling.
Top Junior, Pierre van der Merwe (Morewood/Monster Energy) impressed by clocking 3:32.16 in his second run, the third best time of the day, giving him the Junior national title in what is becoming a highly competitive category. Gary Barnard (Fox/Morewood) and Louis-Bresler Knipe completed the top five overall.
ÔÇ£After I clocked the best time for the first run, I was a bit more confident going into the second run, but with Jonty only two seconds down, I knew it would be close. Last year, at the National Cup event here, he improved on his first run by five seconds. If there was anyone I was nervous of today it was Jonty,ÔÇØ said a relieved Potgieter.
Potgieter, who also won the national title in 2006, proclaimed Sunday’s result as the highlight of his career thus far.
ÔÇ£When I won in 2006, it wasn’t nearly as special. Downhill racing wasn’t nearly as organised back then and hardly noticed by the media. The depth of the competition is also so much greater now than it was three years ago. Standing on that podium and receiving my national champion’s jersey today was amazing!ÔÇØ
Potgieter, who has only part sponsorship from Red Bull and Von Zipper, hopes this win will help boost his career.
ÔÇ£I really would love to have a full-time racing career, but at the moment it’s part time as I don’t have the resources to race all the important events overseas. I am excited that I’ll be able to race the Pietermaritzburg round of the World Cup in the national champion’s jersey. I hope to have a smooth run there and maybe a top-30 finish.ÔÇØ
In the women’s event top Austrian racer, Lene Fruhwurth (Morewood), ranked 18th in the world, captured the overall victory with a quick time of 4:12.38. However, it was runner-up Anka Martin, who was the fastest of the South Africans in 4:14.16 and was awarded the national title. Gina Nixon, Tayla Brown and Victoria Phillips rounded out the top five respectively.
Martin has been one of┬á the country’s leading female downhill racers for the past few year, but seldom competes locally as she’s based in the United States where she races for a sponsored team.
The national championships, which took place in the forests at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountain range in temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius, doubled as Round 3 of the MTN National Cup, Africa’s┬á only national downhill racing series. Round four will be in Pietermaritzburg on 5 April.