Cross Country World Cup stars sweat it out in Maritzburg heat

Pietermaritzburg – The globe’s top cross country mountain biking stars continued their preparations for the opening leg of the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg in energy-sapping hot and dry conditions.

The testing weather conditions added to the challenge facing some of the riders faced as they came to terms with the new XCO course, with even the likes of elite women stars Maja Wloszczowska and her Liv Pro X team mate Jolandé Neff coming unstuck in the notorious Tree House rock garden.

South African’s Cherie Vale and Hayley Bell suffered a similar fate through the new Red Lipped Herald section. However all four riders were able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on going without much more than a bruised ego.

Junior men’s downhillers Innes Graham (MS Mondraker), Gregg Brown of South Africa and Kona Factory Team’s Andrew Crimmins however weren’t quite so lucky as they were forced out of their Friday afternoon qualifying round, and hence the rest of the competition, after suffering injuries in training.

Brown dislocated his shoulder after getting his line wrong in the reworked Cloud 9 stretch whilst Crimmins fractured his patella after getting the Moneymaker hip-jump wrong.

With the heat of the day and the reshuffle of this year’s programme which sees the cross country clashes shifting from their usual Saturday slot to Sunday afternoon and the downhill now Saturday’s focus, some of the elite men’s top performers – including defending World Champ and pre-race favourite Nino Schurter of SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing – were notable absentees for the duration of the day’s training.

Meanwhile Schurter’s nearest rival, world number two Julien Absalon of BMC MTB Racing, was spotted charging through the more technical sections of the course with the French national champ repeatedly visiting the Tree House rock garden.

With Saturday’s focus being firmly on the downhill finals action, in which Pietermaritzburg’s hometown hero Greg Minnaar will be out to once again conquer both ‘the hill’ and the rest of his fellow title rivals, the cross country stars will quietly go about their final preparations before Sunday’s racing.

The UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 11-13 April 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za

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BMC MTB Racing’s Julien Absalon charges through Tree House rock garden at the 2014 UCI World Cup, presented by Shimano, at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg. Darren Goddard/Gameplan Media

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