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MTBU.S.A.August 8, 2004
NORBA Series Downhill Round 5
Aspen, Colorado, USA

Greg Minnaar Extends Series Lead With One Round To Go

Team G Cross riders Greg Minnaar and Cyrille Kurtz battled high altitude, strong winds and a super dusty downhill course to finish in solid positions, which helped Greg Minnaar maintain his healthy lead in the NORBA Series with only one race to go. This week's NORBA race was held at the first-time venue of Snowmass Resort near Aspen in Colorado, and provided the highest race of the season, as well as one of the dustiest.



Greg Minnaar


Greg Minnaar

Training was tricky for both Greg and Cyrille as they struggled to find the optimum speed to carry into the dusty corners. On top of this, the altitude took its toll on Cyrille who has never raced at this height before and found the lack of oxygen on quite a long course very demanding. During the final training day, yesterday, Cyrille hyper-extended a tendon in his wrist, which meant he had to limit the number of training runs prior to the qualification.

Race strategy for Greg this week was all about conservation of points lead over John Kirkcaldie. After winning the last 3 rounds of the NORBA Series, it was clear that the points advantage needed to be maintained before going to the finals in 3 weeks from now. For Cyrille the strategy was to settle into the high altitude, and try and beat as many of the world-class juniors that were in attendance. There were 11 top juniors racing today including the Australian National Junior Team (Australian juniors have won three of the last four Junior World Downhill Titles), and the in-form Americans, Henry O'Donnell and Duncan Riffle.

For the qualifying run, Greg once again chose to ride a little more conservatively by not pedaling too hard between corners, but riding all the technical sections at 100% speed. The main concern was to finish ahead of John Kirkcaldie, and after Greg's result which put him in the 6th qualifying position, the team was pleased to see that John failed to score a top ten result, finishing 15th, after going off course and finishing out of the big points. (Greg scored 15 points and John 6 points). Cyrille also rode a little conservatively to preserve his wrist for the finals. His time meant he was third in the juniors, ahead of all the Australians but behind the two top Americans. The top riders in the qualification were also chasing points for the minor places in the series overall and rode very fast in the dusty conditions. Many of these riders are well known for doing well on loose dusty courses, like Big Bear.

In the final Greg and Cyrille both went for fast runs, without taking unnecessary risks. Once again it became a points race and when John Kirkcaldie crossed the line with 3m 59.6secs it was clear Greg would need a sub 4 minute time to maintain his points margin. Unfortunately even though Greg did get under 4 minutes, he was 4/100ths of a second off Kirkcaldie's time. The win went to Nathan Rennie, the big Australian who powers through the dust powder and is one of the best flat corner riders in the world. A well deserved on-form win. Other riders in front of John and Greg were also experienced dust riders.



Cyrille Kurtz


Cyrille Kurtz

Greg Minnaar (6th-place finisher)
"I'm happy with my run, I stuck to my race strategy but it's clear that the riders ahead of me were just better on the day. Riding in this loose dust is not my strongest point, and even though you try to be your best in all surfaces, if I had to say I had a weakness, it would probably be loose dust. The altitude didn't affect me too much, and like I said, I'm happy with my run, just not as fast as the Aussies today!"

Cyrille Kurtz (18th-place finisher)
"I'm happy with my race. My run was clean with only a couple of small mistakes. I've never ridden at this height before and I found that hard, so to only be beaten by one other junior, Duncan, who is riding well in the USA, is a good feeling. I'm sure that 3 more weeks at this altitude will really help me, for the NORBA finals at Durango, the World Championships, and even the World Cup finals, which is also very high altitude. The bike was great and so stable today, so I'm overall very happy."

Team Director Martin Whiteley
"Both riders are happy with their runs, and their equipment, so that is half the battle. It's a points game for us now, and we need to prepare our strategy for the finals. We gained a few points this week, but it's still very close going into the finals. History shows that this is a series that is often lost from the front, so we need to make sure we race the finals with points strategy in mind."

With a series lead of 46 points and 202 points available (20 for winning qualifying and 182 for winning the race), the series is not secure by any means. However, Greg goes into the finals with the points advantage, and also knowing that the course for the finals, in Durango, Colorado, has been kind to him in the past. He finished 2nd there last year, and John Kirkcaldie failed to get onto the podium.

Both riders will now go into a 2 week high altitude training camp in Vail, Colorado before preparing for the NORBA finals from August 26 to 29.
NORBA Series Downhill Round 5
Aspen, Colorado, USA


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Final Results
 
1 Joel Panozzo (Progressive)
2 Bryn Atkinson (Team Ironhorse/Madcatz)
3 Jared Graves (Yeti Cycles)
4 Dustin Adams (Team Giant Pearl Izumi)
5 Jared Rando (Team Giant Pearl Izumi)
6 Greg Minnaar (Team G Cross Honda)
7 Justin Havukainen (Intense Oakley)
8 Travis Collins (Rockshox/Santa Cruz)
9 Duncan Riffle (Chumba Wumba)
10 Andrew Neethling (Turner Honda)
18 Cyrille Kurtz (Team G Cross Honda)

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