The UCI Downhill World Cup Series is becoming a nail biter as Santa Cruz Syndicate's Greg Minnaar (SRAM RockShox), takes 2nd place today in Val Di Sole, Italy in the fifth of the six race series. Gee Atherton takes the series lead with a 3rd place finish, just 7 points ahead of Greg with one race left. GT's Marc Beaumont took the win much to everyone's delight! Steve Peat narrowly misses the podium in 6th place, .05 behind Steve Smith. Josh Bryceland cracks his first top ten of the season in 9th, but was disappointed in his finish after having a 4th place qualifier.
Val Di Sole delivered a great race today and the name suited the weekend which was filled with warm sunshine here in the "Valley of the Sun". Track conditions changed all week as the first practice day it was raining. The track dried out and each day became rougher and more beat up, holes forming everywhere. The qualifier was held on Friday, with just the top 80 men and 20 women for Saturdays practice. The qualifier went amazing for Josh as he had his best result so far with a 4th, it seemed his bad luck streak was behind him. Greg was on a great run but pushed too hard in a corner into some soft dirt and lost his front end, and 10 seconds in the process as well as valuable qualifying points with a 15th place. Gee Atherton won the qualifier taking the max 50 points, thus putting Greg 27 points behind him going into the final. Steve picked up a few points for his 10th place run.
The race schedule this week had one extra day of practice so we had a relaxing Friday evening where we all enjoyed a barbeque potluck held at the GT pits. It really showed what wonderful camaraderie the riders and teams have with one another. SRAM/Rockshox crew brought the meat, Mr. Minn stoked the coals, and the big hit was the Grana Padana Parmesan cheese and Italian red wine, a meal in itself.
Saturday's short practice schedule allowed the afternoon off for the riders and Greg and Steve went to the Freecaster booth to commentate the Pro Men's cross country race. They were a bit nervous at first and ended up doing a great job. Right after that Steve had an interview with Italian Playboy where they will make a 5-minute video for the web and the interview will be in the print magazine. Needless to say the interviewer was beautiful, in fact the mechanics said they couldn't even work after she left the pits...
Race day was a complete reversal of start order from the other world cups as Josh was fastest qualifier of the boys and would be fourth to last man down the hill. Greg was expected to take the hotseat on his run, which he did with ease. Steve was .49 faster than Greg at the first split but after hitting a tree lower down the course he held it together to just miss the podium in the end, placing 6th.
Many mistakes were made by the top riders and Greg's steady conservative run was the right call as his time held until Marc Beaumont took to the course and brilliantly eclipsed Greg's time by 1.40 seconds. Our eyes were on the big screen as Josh started his run, but his first split showed he was down by over 5 seconds. He kept hammering down, but lost a bit more time in the second half and his run was good for 9th place, his first top ten this year in the world cup. Marc held the hotseat until the very end when Gee Atherton managed just a 3rd place. This gave Gee the leader's jersey, the first time Greg has been out of it all season.
Steve says, "This was an awesome track. It was very technical and you are hitting stuff so fast and it just got rougher and rougher. I felt good all weekend but I'm just pissed off that I didn't put a run together in final. I hit a tree in qualifier and also hit a tree in the race and I missed the podium by .05 just like in Leogang. This is damn annoying because I know I can make the podium and I just haven't put it together. Thanks to the Syndicate for putting everything in place for me to do well. My bike was working sweet all weekend."
Greg said this about his 2nd place finish, "I needed a result in the final after a terrible qualifying run, but at the same time I couldn't afford a mistake or lose points. My race run was pretty bland and solid and had very few mistakes and it paid off in the end."
The podium was quite a fun celebration as everyone in attendance was happy for Marc's second career world cup win. He guzzled his winning champagne with gusto. Then the Santa Cruz Syndicate was called up to the podium to take the honors for the top team of the day. Steve rode his bike onto the stage to the cheers from the crowd, while mechanics Ricky Bobby, "Hatrick", and Tango enjoyed the bubbly after the great team effort.
We are looking forward to coming back to Val Di Sole for the world cup next year, but up next is the finale of the series in Windham, New York at the end of the month where Greg and Gee will duke it out to the very end for the title!
TOP TEN PRO MEN DOWNHILL RESULTS:
1st Marc Beaumont 3:17.85
2nd GREG MINNAAR (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 3:19.25
3rd Gee Atherton 3:20.51
4th Andrew Neethling 3:21.08
5th Steve Smith 3:21.98
6th STEVE PEAT (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 3:22.03
7th Danny Hart 3:22.14
8th Sam Blenkinsop 3:22.51
9th JOSH BRYCELAND (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 3:23.44
10th Markus Pekoll 3:23.55
OVERALL SERIES POINTS:
1st Gee Atherton 1007
2nd GREG MINNAAR (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 1000
3rd Sam Blenkinsop 694
4th Aaron Gwin 592
5th Brendan Fairclough 526
8th STEVE PEAT (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 415
28th JOSH BRYCELAND (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE)
Thanks to the Syndicate sponsors:
SANTA CRUZ BICYCLES
SRAM, ROCKSHOX, AVID, TRUVATIV
TROY LEE DESIGNS
Cast: santa cruz bikes