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World champion heading for SA event

Cycling’s current men’s downhill world champion, Gee Atherton, has added to the quality of the field for next week’s 2009 Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup first round event by confirming his participation.

Atherton, who races with his brother Dan and sister Rachel on the Animal Commencal team, won the first round of the Maxxis Cup in Gouviea, Portugal, for the second year in succession earlier this month and declared himself motivated and ready to begin his assault on the World Cup.

The British cyclist is currently ranked No1 on the UCI’s world rankings, just a few points ahead of South Africa’s World Cup champion, Greg Minnaar, who hasn’t raced yet this year, preferring to make his competitive debut at the opening round of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, which is his home town, next week.

Dan Atherton is also confirmed for the Pietermaritzburg showpiece, the most prestigious international cycling event ever to be held in South Africa. Dan is ranked 21st in the world for downhill racing, but is World No4 in 4X, his preferred discipline, which he will contest in Pietermaritzburg.

Rachel Atherton is the current women’s downhill world champion, but her participation in South Africa is uncertain since she is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained while training in California in January.

The Pietermaritzburg round of the World Cup is sponsored by DCM Chrome and incorporates the cross-country, downhill and 4X disciplines. It takes place adjacent to the Cascades Shopping Centre in Pietermaritzburg from 10-12 April. Tickets are available from as little at R30 per person and can be purchased on the event’s website, or at the event itself.