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Swiss MTB DH Championships - CN

Lugano, August 11, 2002

Minnaar grabs fastest time at Swiss nats

Titles to Zbinden and Saner

By Martin Whiteley, Global Racing

The 2002 Swiss Downhill Championships were held this past weekend in the tiny town of Rivera, some 30km from Lugano in the south west of Switzerland near to the Italian border, which is the host city for the 2003 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships.

Greg Minnaar (Global Racing - RSA) and Matti Lehikoinen (Global Racing - FIN) joined their Swiss teammate Marielle Saner for this rare opportunity to see the proposed course for the 2003 Worlds, which up until this weekend had remained a bit of a mystery. Unlike most World Championship courses, there has not been, nor will there be, a World Cup race on the course prior to its use for the World Championships.

For Greg and Matti, the excitement and anticipation in having the opportunity to see the course soon soured after the first inspections revealed a course that was incredibly dangerous, had very little safety measures in place such as padding and protective fencing, and in some sections seemed poorly thought out.

"For me this is probably the most dangerous course I've ridden in my career. The woods section was so steep that it was simply impossible to brake with any sort of control, and that was in the dry! I could have ridden it I guess, but not raced it, and I don't know how the younger and less experienced riders would cope at the Worlds next year", said Greg after the first day of training.

Similar concerns resulted in the local Swiss riders speaking with the organisers about the concerns of the athletes, and eventually the course length was reduced from around 6 minutes, to less than 2 minutes, in order to keep it safe. Even then, the entire Australian Junior contingent (who were the only other internationals racing at the event) were withdrawn from the competition by their National Coach, Scott Sharples, who cited safety reasons and the event's proximity to the date of the 2002 World Championships set for August 26 to 31. For the same reasons, Matti also withdrew from the event but used the weekend for valuable training.

Racing got underway with Greg being the only international in the field. The race was a two run format with the fastest time of the two being the time that counted. Greg rode a time of 1m 43.88secs in his first run and was more than 11 seconds quicker than Swiss international Thomas Ryser. In the 2nd run Greg didn't back off, but ended up running a time that was a little slower, 1 min 45.51secs.

"I thought I was actually faster in the second run, but the course was drying out and got quite sticky, so even though I ran the corners faster I know I lost time in the pedaling sections, but overall I'm pretty happy with the way things ended up. No broken bones, bike running perfectly and a win," said Greg this morning from his training base in Zweissimmen, Switzerland.

The Swiss Title actually goes to Samuel Zbinden who finished 9 seconds behind Greg, and the women's title went to Greg's teammate, and defending Champion, Marielle Saner, who had a winning margin of 3.16secs.


1 Marielle Saner          2.15.84
2 Amélie Thévoz           2.19.00
3 Sarah Stieger           2.25.36
4 Pascaline Reusser       2.28.63
5 Sandra Walker           2.40.13
1 Greg Minnaar            1.43.88
2 Samuel Zbinden          1.52.84
3 Damien Mermoud          1.53.64
4 Thomas Ryser            1.54.52
5 Andreas Steffen         1.56.96