Defending downhill world champion Greg Minnaar is well into his 2013 international season, which will ultimately lead to the world championships in his hometown of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He is eager to test his new equipment, avoid pressure and gradually build to his world title defence at the Cascades MTB Park in August.
After a disappointing opening round of the UCI World Cup series, he returned to better form for the second round before heading to Val d'Allos where he made the podium in the Enduro World Series race and grabbed a stage win.
"I feel more on track now," said Minnaar. "The season started a little too steady for my liking. Round 2 of the World Cup went a lot better for me. Then we went to Val d' Allos, where I finished third overall and got my first stage win... I was pretty stoked with that."
While enduro races may seem like something of a diversion for the downhill supremo, they have provided a release and an opportunity to work on his rhythm.
"Enduro is something I've always liked and now that they have formed a world series it makes sense for me to ride," said Minnaar.
Minnaar and his Santa Cruz Syndicate team have also finished another round of equipment testing before the resumption of the World Cup circuit.
"We've just finished a week of testing in the South of France," said Minnaar. "We want to make sure where we are for the next couple of World Cups before we head to world championship. My trainer Stephane Girrard knows me well, and we will enter the world champs in the right condition."
Minnaar has a firm plan in place for the lead up to the world champs at the Cascades downhill course that he knows well. He is, however, a believer in not overtraining on the course so that he can stay fresh.
"I know the area well as I have grown up and live not far from the Cascades," said Minnaar. "We have enough practice time during the event to test out what ever changes have been made to the track."
"It's tough leading in to this event, there is so much pressure and everyone wants a piece of you," he said. "In previous years, I've actually left town for the weeks leading in to the event."
"I'll definitely be laying low again. I will be home a couple weeks prior to world champs so I'll be able to have a look at the changes to the course then."
For Minnaar, dealing with the pressure is a critical element of managing his own goals and meeting the massive weight of public expectation on him.
"That's the pressure I'm going to have to deal with!" he said. "It's OK, I know how to race under pressure, the only option I have is to ride off the pressure."
The UCI Mountain Bike World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB park in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 to September 1.