Having suffered a major setback during the dying stages of last season, three-time men's downhill world champion and Pietermaritzburg hero Greg Minnaar is happy to be back in his hometown again after establishing such fond memories of the Cascades MTB Park over the past few seasons and is looking forward to competing in front of his home support at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg this weekend.
Minnaar, who splits his time equally between his base in Pietermaritzburg and San Francisco, is always glad to be home with friends and family and is just as comfortable in the United States where he has a number of businesses that he is involved in.
"Being home and competing at home is always great and being ready to race here is always important for me," the Santa Cruz Syndicate star said. "I always want to do as well as I can for my friends and family that are watching and I'm working as hard as I can to be ready for the World Cup this year."
Having had a long period off the bike following a knee injury and subsequent surgery, Minnaar has been slowly getting himself back into riding shape however, even after winning at the South African MTB Cup Series' first leg at Cascades earlier this season, he still does not feel that he is where he needs to be in order to be competitive in Pietermaritzburg this year.
"I feel that there is always a bit of pressure on me when I race at home, but I think that the majority of the pressure comes from myself and always wanting to perform well at home adds that little bit of tension.
"Knowing that I am not going to be 100 percent for the first half of the season is never ideal but I will be trying my hardest at home!" a determined Minnaar said.
It has been a long road to recovery for Minnaar who has been working hard with his physiotherapists and biokineticists to get him ready and riding in time for the start of the 2014 season. Having a team that he trusts in Pietermaritzburg always gives him that feeling of homely comfort.
"I have a great team of physios and bios here. With some great gyms around, I have been working to get fit and being in training for six hours a day means that I have been going flat-out trying to prepare.
"Being back in my comfort zone here also means that I don't have to drive anywhere to ride! It is one thing I can't stand and in Pietermaritzburg I can just ride from home," he said.
Minnaar has the opportunity to create history this season and the 32-year-old is starting to look at his career and his future in the sport as this most recent injury has set him back in preparing for, yet another, serious challenge for the World Cup and World Championship titles.
"I have set myself the goal to get two more World Cup wins because if I can get them then that means I will have won the most World Cup titles and that in itself is motivation enough to keep going!
"I have a plan that I am going to go for another five years but we will just have to see," a Minnaar said.
Thousands of cheering fans are expected to turn up for the World Cup and a warm, supportive crowd at Pietermaritzburg's fourth hosting of a leg of the World Cup event is something Minnaar looks forward to competing in front of.
"It is a really exciting event and you rarely see such emotion from other events when the riders come down the hill!
"The event is also a whole day activity with people being able to walk up into the hills to watch some of the earlier guys riding at the top and then head down to the finish for the final few riders. Recently, after I got injured, I was able to be in the crowd myself and it really was quite special!" the hometown hero said.
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