MTN National MTB Cup goes International

    Former two-time world champion, Fabien Barel (Subaru) of France and former World Cup champion, Tracy Moseley (Trek) of Great Britain, top the early entry list for Round 4 of the MTN National Cup Downhill Mountain Bike Series, in association with MiWay, which takes place in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

    It will be the strongest field ever to contest a round of the national series as international stars from around the world gather in the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal ahead of next week’s Nissan UCI World Cup, presented by Shimano.

    With registration still open on Friday and Saturday, it’s expected that the depth of the field will increase further ahead of Sunday’s big showdown adjacent to the Cascades Shopping Centre.

    Other top names confirmed to be in action include World No. 11 Australian Chris Kovarik, World No. 10 France’s Julien Camelini, World No. 7 New Zealand’s Justin Leov, women’s World No. 4 Emmeline Ragot and top Austrian female racer Lene Fruhwirth.

    “It’s gonna be like a mini World Cup!” said South African star, Andrew Neethling (Trek), who will be one of the big names on the start list. “I’ve just returned from two Maxxis Cup races in Europe where our team used the events to fine-tune our bike set-up and sharpen our form ahead of the World Cup next week. Sunday’s race is another opportunity to sharpen and also get us familiar with the course.”

    Neethling, the 2008 national champion, finished 11th overall in the 2008 World Cup Series and won the first two rounds of the MTN National Series in January and February this year.  Other top South Africans confirmed so far for Sunday are Jonty Neethling (Fox Morewood) and Hayden Brown (Mongoose).

    More top local and international riders, including the likes of Australia’s two-time World Champion and former World Cup winner, Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized) are expected to join the entry list before the start of racing on Sunday.

    South Africa’s top downhill racer, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who lives in Pietermaritzburg, has opted to sit out this weekend’s event, but will be primed to begin the defence of his World Cup title on the same course at next week’s World Cup race.

    At 2.8km, the downhill course is relatively long, with a quick drop early on followed by a relatively mildly sloping section in the middle, which contains some jumps and tight turns and then a fast plunge in the final third, incorporating the last 500 metres of the 4X course into the finish arena. The total descent is 368 metres.

    From the top section of the course, which winds its way through a eucalyptus forest, much of the City of Pietermaritzburg is visible in the valley below. One spectator magnet is likely to be the 6-metre drop, about 500 metres from the start, with a couple of road-width jumps to follow before the flatter, pedal-heavy middle segment.

    Registration and official practice take place on Saturday from 09h00–14h00. There will be final practice from 08h00–09h30 on Sunday with racing staring at 10h00.

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    Photo 1: Top South African, Andrew Neethling, is among a star-studded field for Round 4 of the MTN National Cup in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

    Photo credit: GARY PERKIN