Graves on top | SASCOC - SASCOC

Graves on top

The Cascades mountain bike park in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal came alive on Friday as the first full day of practice and racing for this weekend’s UCI MTB World Cup event saw the world’s best riders tackling the cross country, downhill and four-cross courses in an atmosphere of intense excitement and anticipation.

After a busy week spent repairing the course after the deluge of rain on the weekend, riders enthused over the conditions of the courses which had firmed up well, with just enough moisture to keep it tacky and prevent any breaking up of the surface.

The two local heroes Greg Minnaar and Burry Stander completed their practice sessions and stayed away from the limelight as part of their strategy to minimise the pressure of hometown expectations.

“This is a massive event for South African mountain biking,” said Stander. “This is my home World Cup and I would love to win it. I am feeling strong and you can be sure that I will give it my best shot.”

Stander was fervently hoping that the rain stayed away for the duration of the competition. “If it rains here it becomes a lottery, which is not what you want for a World Cup. If it stays like this it will be an excellent World Cup race,” said Stander. “There are places to make your moves, places where you have to dig deep and places where you can play cat and mouse.”

Stander was doing a good job of avoiding the distractions of the sideshows and his eager fans. “But come race day they can make a big difference.”

Minnaar was just as positive about impact that the massive crowd expected for Sunday’s downhill can have on the event. “The downhill is really physical and when you have to dig deep to find energy to pedal the support of the crowd behind you makes a big difference. It’s a lift that I really appreciate at home, and something that I don’t really get anywhere else on the World Cup circuit, so I am looking forward to it.”

The first full day ended with the first round of four-cross qualifying, under leaden skies.

Jared Graves set a steady pace en route to being the quickest rider in the men’s qualifying round ahead of Roger Rinderknecht of Switzerland and Tomas Slavik of the Czech Republic. Austria’s Anneke Beerten sounded an early warning as she went fastest in the women’s qualifier and will look to carry this solid form into the heats.

There were no surprises as all riders in both the men’s and women’s qualifiers who took to the track made it through to the next round of action.

The course medics were kept busy dealing with a number of casualties, including two fractured collarbones and a fractured scapular that forced riders out of the competition after falls in training.

The UCI MTB World Cup takes place at the Cascades in Pietermaritzburg from 21-24 April. More information can be found at


1 Jared Graves 58.504
2 Roger Rinderknecht 1:00.060
3 Tomas Slavik 1:00.250
4 Graeme Mudd 1:00.297
5 David Graf 1:00.330
6 Johannes Fischbach 1:00.877
7 Joost Wichman 1:01.457
8 Michal Prokop 1:01.538
9 Guido Tschugg 1:01.683
10 Blake Carney 1:01.774

1 Anneke Beerten 1:07.928
2 Anita Molcik 1:08.506
3 Katy Curd 1:09.055
4.Melissa Buhl 1:10 583
5 Celine Gros 1:11.951
6 Fionn Griffiths 1:12.607
7 Lucia Oetjen 1:17.751