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Internationals dominate

Australia’s Chris Kovarik and Great Britain’s Tracy Moseley led a Commonwealth┬á domination of the men and women’s podiums when they each grabbed victory at round four of the MTN National Cup downhill mountain bike series in Pietermaritzburg.

In downhill racing, the top five finishers get a podium spot, and for the past three years, Australia, Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand have excelled in the discipline. With eight of the 10 podium spots, Sunday’s race was no different.

Riders from 12 countries contested the event, most using it as a build-up race ahead of this week’s first round of the 2009 Nissan UCI World Cup, which will be held at the same venue.

Kovarik (Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense), currently 11th on the UCI world rankings, clocked a quick time of 3 minutes, 56.09 seconds on his second of two runs, which gave him a one-and-a-half second victory margin over South Africa’s Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing), who clocked 3:58.54 on his second run. Great Britain’s Marc Beaumont (GT Racing) was third in 3:59.36 and the last of the riders to beat the four-minute mark.

ÔÇ£I’m really happy to have won today. It’s been ages since I last did a race so to win on the first competitive outing of the new season is quite a boost for my confidence,ÔÇØ said Kovarik, adding: ÔÇ£There’s quite a lot of pedaling required in the middle section. Luckily I was able to power through that quite well with a mixture of standing and sitting at the right times.ÔÇØ

Kovarik’s second run was more than four seconds quicker than his first, which ironically, he put down to using his brakes more.

ÔÇ£On my first run I slid out a few times on corners which I felt cost me some time. So on the second run I braked more into the corners and it made for a smoother and faster run.ÔÇØ

Former two-time world champion, Fabien Barel of France, was forced to miss Sunday’s race following a crash in practice on Friday that dislocated his knee and may see him miss next week’s World Cup. And current World Cup champion, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who lives in Pietermaritzburg, opted to spend the weekend in Cape Town to ease the pre-race pressure on him ahead of next week’s World Cup opener.

In the women’s race, Moseley (Trek World Racing), had two almost identical runs, her second, just nine-hundredths of a second quicker than the first to give her a winning time of 4:34.50. She was six seconds ahead of Canadian Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense) with Frenchwoman, Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Centre) rounding out the top three positions.

ÔÇ£We had three of the top-six riders in the world here today, so it’s a good result for me,ÔÇØ said Moseley. ÔÇ£It’s good to get a race like this ahead of the World Cup because you never go as fast in practice as you do in a race so it’s good to be able to see where I can still improve.ÔÇØ


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