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The current world number three Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) claimed fifth position when the UCI World Cup was held in Pietermaritzburg last year and will be looking to beat an incredibly competitive field to win his first rainbow jersey.
Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup winner proves form ahead of Worlds
Steve Smith, the winner of the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup this weekend, has been in good form of late and is looking forward to having a shot at that elusive rainbow jersey when he returns to Pietermaritzburg for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at the end of August.
The Devinci Global Racing rider also registered a fourth place in the UCI World Cup event in Andorra where he nudged out a number of big name competitors, including former world champion Greg Minnaar. He added this fourth to two top three finishes in the opening two World Cup events earlier this year and is positive about his season to date.
"I'm happy with how the season has gone this far," Smith said.
"I finished second and third at the first two World Cups and won two North American races including the Canadian National Champs and a Pro GRT along with a second at Sainte-Anne in Quebec and a third at the world champs last year in Leogang, Austria so I'm happy with my recent results."
Representing your country is one of the standout reasons why Smith enjoys the world championships whilst the pressure that comes with a world championship is very different to that of a World Cup.
"During the World Cup season, you have a number of legs to win the competition. At a world championship, you only have one opportunity and if you are not ready for it then you have to wait a whole year for another crack," said Smith.
"It feels great to come with a different approach to World Cups with only the one objective, which is to win," he said.
"It's also cool because we represent our countries and get bikes painted into the colours of our countries which makes for a very special race.
Most riders have a good idea of their form and ability coming into an event and set their specific goals accordingly. Smith is no different and feels that the form that he has shown this year will give him just the boost he needs when he arrives in Pietermaritzburg.
"I want the top step!" said a motivated Smith.
The trip to South Africa is something that Smith has done in the past and this time around he wants to improve on his last attempt. As with many of the riders, the Cascades MTB Park is quite a popular venue for the riders.
"Last time at Cascades, I finished in fifth place on the podium and really enjoyed the event. It is always a great experience for me to be able to race my bike in South Africa," the Canadian said.
For Smith and the rest of those aiming to shine at Cascades, being thoroughly prepared for the long, flat section at the beginning of the second sector of the course may well prove to be vital.
"My sprint work is definitely what I've mainly focussed on recently because there is quite a lot of it on the course, and I'm sure will play a really important role given the course for world champs," Smith said.
Despite his positive results and own world champs title hopes, Smith is well aware of the form some of his rivals have found as well as their equally burning desire to claim gold in Pietermaritzburg.
"Gee Atherton is going to be tough to beat this year but I also think that Greg Minnaar will be a strong competitor because he is back at home and I'm sure Aaron Gwin will also do well."