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MTBNew ZealandAugust 26, 2006
2006 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup World Championship: New Zealand

Greg Minnaar Takes Silver At World Champs

Team G-Cross Honda rider Greg Minnaar (RSA) took the silver medal at the UCI World Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand, with Sam Hill (AUS) taking the gold and Greg's team mate Matti Lehikoinen (FIN) taking his first ever World's top 10, a well deserved 8th place.

Greg Minnaar

Greg Minnaar

The weather played games with the riders all week, at times looking like the finals would be wet, at other times dry, and this meant tyre choice was absolutely critical as the clouds rolled in for the finals. During training both Matti and Greg had found their optimum tyre choice and in the final, without rain but under threatening skies, the cut Maxxis Wet Screams hooked up perfectly both in the open and in the dark soiled forest sections.

In the qualifying race held on Thursday, two days before the finals, the course was quite dry and most riders were keen to show their hand before Saturday. The top 3 spots saw three of the tallest riders in the field using strength and power to get down the course, with large crowds of Kiwi's and Aussies cheering their local heroes. 2003 World Cup Champion Nathan Rennie (AUS) won the qualifier with Greg very happy with his 3rd, not wanting the pressure of going last in the finals. Matti came in 8th and exactly where he wanted to be.

Overnight rain the night before the finals never eventuated, but the strong winds rolled in around midday and brought in a thick cloud cover which threatened rain at any minute. Both Greg and Matti were really happy with their early morning training sessions and were set to go as the 17th UCI Mountain Bike Worlds got underway. Chris Kovarik (AUS) took the lead early and sat in the hotseat for more than 30 minutes before Sam Hill came down the very technical course. His speed was clearly above those that went before him and he seemed to be right on the limit the whole way down. As he crossed the line, 7 seconds ahead of Kovarik, it was obvious that he was the man to beat, with 5 more riders to come. Matti's run was fluid and he hit all his lines without any major issues, but the power based course was a little too tough for a podium finish, but Matti was still very happy to take his first ever Worlds top 10. Greg's run looked superb on the giant screen but two thirds of the way down, at the intermediate time, Greg was 2.2 seconds down on Hill and wasn't able to make up the margin in the last minute.

In the end this was Greg's 5th visit to the World Championships podium in the last 6 years (2002 did not start due to broken collar bone), making him one of the most consistent riders in the sport's history.

Matti Lehikoinen

Matti Lehikoinen

Greg Minnaar (2nd Place)
"I had a great ride today and made no errors, and I have to accept that Sam was simply the better man on the day. Every once and a while he can pull out a big margin, and I guess today was a great day for him to do it. My preparation was ideal, the bike and team did a great job, and I rode my butt off with no errors. I don't think I could have done better than that without taking stupid risks."

Matti Lehikoinen (8th Place)
"I'm pretty stoked with my run. I hit a rock with my pedal at one point but it was no major deal. The rest of the time I was pinning all my lines and keeping my head calm and not getting too excited which is the opposite to what I've done in previous years. To finally nail a top 10, and ahead of other really top guys, makes me happy. It was worth the trip down here!"

Team Director Martin Whiteley
"Of course a World Title would have been a fantastic result but I know enough about this sport and Greg to feel comfortable and happy with his effort today. That was a completely committed ride and he went to the edge a number of times but wasn't going out of control. I'm super proud of his record at Worlds, but we do need to get to that top step again soon. Matti had a mature ride, and I feel he has really established himself as one of the top riders now, after such a great season. All eyes are focused on the World Cup finals in two weeks."

2006 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup World Championship: New Zealand

Qualifying Results
1 Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
2 Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
3 Greg Minnaar (Team G Cross Honda)
4 JMarc Beaumont (Team MBUK Santa Cruz)
5 Mick Hannah (Cannondale The Cut)
6 Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Iron Horse)
7 Mickael Pascal (Q Bikes)
8 Matti Lehikoinen (Team G Cross Honda)
9 John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis USA)
10 Gee Atherton (Team Animal/Giant)
Final Results
1 Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Iron Horse)
2 Greg Minnaar (Team G Cross Honda)
3 Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
4 Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
5 Chris Kovarik (MS Intense Racing)
6 Mick Hannah (Cannondale The Cut)
7 Cedric Gracia (Team Commencal)
8 Matti Lehikoinen (Team G Cross Honda)
9 Gee Atherton (Team Animal/Giant)
10 Mickael Pascal (Q Bikes)

Greg Minnaar

Related Links

· MTB - UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup
· New Zealand

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