Motor Sports Topics Return to Motor Sports Home
Top line
MTBFranceSeptember 11, 2004
UCI World Mountain Bike Championships
Les Gets, France

Greg Minnaar Takes Silver Medal in World Championships

Team G Cross Honda rider Greg Minnaar of South Africa went for his 2nd consecutive World Title this weekend in the Haute Savioe region of the French Alps, and missed narrowly by 0.56 of a second. The very short and dusty course was a big challenge for all of the world’s best riders, and despite the very best preparation by the South African, a slightly conservative ride and a small mechanical problem resulted in a silver medal for 2004. Team mate Cyrille Kurtz, competing in the junior category had even worse luck when one small accident resulted in a loss of rhythm that brought on an even bigger crash. Cyrille was unhurt but naturally very disappointed.

Greg Minnaar

Greg Minnaar

Training during the week was excellent with the Honda RN01’s performing without problems and the course remaining dry throughout, despite the notorious reputation for this region in September. A lot of time was spent by the team in analysing the short course which had very few options for line choice, and this meant that a large part of the race would come down to strategy and psychology. The team also spent a good deal of time video taping the 2 riders as well as their main rivals, and this was coupled with doing timed runs in practice, all helping the team arrive at the best race strategy for Greg and Cyrille for today’s final.

Qualifying took place on Thursday, two days before the final, as is tradition at the World Championships. The long-term weather forecast had rain as a real possibility for Saturday afternoon. Together with this information and the fact that the course was getting more and more rough, the team opted to qualify Greg mid way through the field. This was done by stopping him on course for around 10 seconds towards the end of the run. His interval time however was excellent, 3rd fastest, despite having the wrong Maxxis tyres (using 2.7 instead of 2.5 width), which had him sliding around too much. Cyrille wanted to qualify in around 5th position in his junior category and was surprised to see his time was 4 seconds faster than expected, which qualified him in 2nd.

The morning of the final saw a small rain shower early in the day, but the course dried out quickly during the brief one hour practice session and all was set for the big final in front of an estimated 30,000 downhill fans. Cyrille’s target time was 2m 48secs and he set off fast and solid. However, in one of the first forest sections his rear wheel stepped out and he hit a tree losing more than 2 seconds. His interval time was still strong, but in trying to make up time Cyrille crashed hard in a fast section of the course and eventually finished 46th. This was personally very disappointing for Cyrille who finished 3rd in the World Championships last year and was just coming back into world-class form after being ill. In last week’s Swiss Cup he was 12 seconds faster than the next placed junior (who was Kyle Strait, today’s 3rd placed rider).

For Greg’s race it was clear that Team G Cross Honda weren’t the only team to think that an early start would be better. Sam Hill had qualified super slow and therefore started very early and promptly took the lead. Next of the favourites to come down was Greg who then passed Sam Hill and moved into the lead where he waited another 7 minutes before perhaps the biggest event favourite, at least according to the locals, Fabien Barel came down and just beat his time. These three early starters hung on for another hour or so, to make up the final podium. It wasn’t without drama though. 29 year old Steve Peat of Sheffield, England, the final rider, was having a brilliant run. He had a lead of more than a second at the interval only to crash in the final 30 seconds of his run and watch yet another chance at the World Championship title elude him. So in the end it was the three early time setters, on today’s rough and dusty course that took home the UCI medals. For Greg this completes a set with his bronze from 2001, and the gold of 2003.

Cyrille Kurtz

Cyrille Kurtz

Greg Minnaar (2nd Place)
"This is a good result for me today. You always want to win and of course to win the World Championship for Honda in our first year would have been amazing, but it wasn’t to be. I rode a little conservative; smooth and flowing, but not quite on the edge, perhaps that was nerves, but all considered to have finished 2nd is great for me. The team strategy of starting early was definitely the right move, and I know that it would have been a lot harder for me to start later on this course. I’m not so strong on short courses, especially ones with few line options, so in fact it could have been a lot different today so I’ll happily take the silver. It’s been an honour to be World Champion for the past 12 months and I hope to be again one day."

Cyrille Kurtz (46th Place)
"I’m really devastated by this result. I cannot imagine how this happened. I came here with excellent form from last week, I qualified easily, and I know I was ready with one of the best bikes. I’m still having difficulty accepting this result. All I can do is look forward to next week’s World Cup finals in Livigno and prove to people that my result today is an anomaly. I feel very bad for all my Honda colleagues who worked so hard this week, but I must remain positive for next week where I know I can show my real potential."

Team Director Martin Whiteley
"It’s with mixed feelings we look back on this week’s World Championships. Obviously we are very happy to have been on the podium in our first year with Greg’s solid ride for silver, but we also know that Cyrille was very unlucky. We have learned a lot and look forward to the 2005 World Championships in Italy where we hope to win a World Title for Honda."

The team now prepares for the World Cup finals in Livigno, Italy, which will be the host venue for the 2005 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships. This will allow the team a preview of what to expect in 12 months time. Next weeks event will be the last major event for the team this year before going into off season testing.
UCI World Mountain Bike Championships
Les Gets, France


Final Results Elite Men
1 Fabien Barel (Team Kona/Les Gets)
2 Greg Minnaar (Team G Cross Honda)
3 Sam Hill (Ironhorse Madcatz)
4 Joel Panozzo (Progressive/Intense)
5 Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate)

Related Links

· Union Cycliste Internationale
· Honda Worldwide | MTB - Mountain Bike Downhill Race
· France

Page Top

Honda Worldwide site

Home | Site Map | Site Index | About this Site

Copyright, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and its subsidiaries and affiliates. All Rights Reserved.