Team G-Cross Honda report
With the World Cup title already wrapped up, round 7 of the men's UCI Mountain Bike World Cup held in Pila, Italy, served more as a litmus test for the upcoming World Championships in 2 weeks where the top contenders got to see how each other had prepared in the past 5 weeks away from World Cup racing. Adding to this however, was the mixed weather conditions, which saw a damp course for the semi finals, with no rain, but a rainy final for the majority of the men's field.
The course was a very difficult mixture of open sections, forests, rocky parts, and slick fast sections, making tyre choice very difficult. The course was designed by 1997 World Cup Champion Corrado Herin who did well to challenge the elite field. However, the biggest challenge was to be the weather. After overnight rain, and snow at the top of the mountain, riders were faced with racing the semi finals with the course 10 seconds slower due to the slippery conditions. In the semi final the two top riders were forced out of the World Cup due to injury, Sam Hill (Australia) and Steve Peat (Great Britain), showed they were back in form by finishing 1st and 2nd respectively, with Greg Minaar close behind in 3rd.
In the final the rain came after the first few riders had started. One of those riders to benefit from better conditions was 2005 European Junior Champion, 17-year-old Brendan Fairclough of Great Britain. Brendan sat in the lead for more than an hour and half and by his own admission felt very lucky to have gone early after qualifying poorly due to a crash in the semi finals. Nevertheless, his time was super quick and would have placed him second in the semi finals earlier in the day.
Team G-Cross rider Matti Lehikoinen came down the course and despite having a good split time, he hit a tree and lost about 5 seconds pushing him out of the top ten. Minnaar however was the first rider in the rain to get a faster time at the interval than Brendan, having a 1.3 second lead, which was enough to get him into first place with just Steve Peat and Sam Hill to come. Steve had a great split time, 3 seconds up on Greg, but lost control in the lower section of the course, crashing into a tree and losing valuable time to ultimately finish 9th. Finally, Sam Hill who had been riding very fast all week, rode like he did in Austria at round 3, and scored a big margin win, 6 seconds ahead Greg, serving notice that he will be the man to watch for the World Championships.
“I'm pretty happy with today's result," Minnaar said after the race. “Sam rode an awesome race, the course really suited his style with plenty of off camber open corners, and I know he was keen to come back strong after injury. For me this race was important to see where I am with my preparation for the World Championships and I'm very happy with how things went. I know what I need to do in two weeks and will be ready to give it everything".
Minnaar's Team G Cross Honda now heads to La Bresse, France for the French Cup Finals next week which they will use as a preparation event for the all important UCI World Mountain Bike Championships taking place in two weeks, in Livigno, Italy, September 6th to 10th.
For complete results and race reports, click here.