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1st June 2008
The first triple round of the Nissan UCI World Cup Series was held in the mountain town of Valnord, Andorra where the Santa Cruz Syndicate took two of the five podium spots with Greg Minnaar scooping up third and Steve "Old School" Peat just 3/4 of a second behind him in fourth. The big news from this event is the Atherton family each winning an event with Dan winning the 4X, Rachel winning the women's downhill and Gee winning the men's downhill, truly a history making weekend!
Racers were treated to a continuous view of the spectacular snow capped mountains in this affluent hometown of Cedric Gracia. The venue was a gondola lift up the mountain where the event was staged, scenic, but not convenient with the downhill finish line quite a distance from the pits, which made things challenging.
The track here is short, starting on a shale mountainside dropping in and out of tree sections with fun berms, jumps and some soggy ground. Just a few weeks ago the top of the course was covered in 2 meters of snow requiring it's removal for fear of having to cancel the race. With just light sprinkles on Saturday the weather was mostly fine. "The course is unreal, it feels great to ride, full Wet Screams! The rain helped the track. It's mostly one line, but you can do some sneaky ones and I'm looking forward to racing tomorrow. And it's my birthday today, so I can do what I want!" says a jolly Nathan Rennie.
"Andorra is good so far, but the pit set up is strange. We managed with the mechanics at the bottom so didn't have to go back to the pits for service. I personally like the track a lot. It's quite a bit like a UK track. It's a thinker's course, you have to be setting up and carry your speed well. Luckily we have the best bikes for this track, but let's wait and see what the weather brings tomorrow." Said Peaty.
After a heavy nights rain racers took to the sticky track this morning for the qualification race. Peat was the fastest Syndicate racer coming in fourth. After a previous days practice wrought with mechanicals Minnaar got things rolling and came eighth. Rennie had three perfect practice runs and felt good going into the qualifier, but things didn't go as well as practice had and he placed 21st. "I just couldn't get it going. I was confident going into it but I tried to throw down and it was a mistake. Not much of a birthday present. I've got nothing to loose now." Peat said," It was muddy. It didn't go good for me. I didn't carry speed well, but I'm happy that I got fourth with that effort. The track was stickier than in practice and I think everyone felt they didn't do good." Minnaar had an average run saying "I just made crucial mistakes and I thought it would be okay. I didn't want to go too hard to conserve some energy for the final."
Minnaar went into the hot seat when he came across the line, but the worried expression on his face indicated he didn't think his time would hold for a win. He says, "I got to the bottom and I knew I didn't have enough to win. At the speeds we were going in the final I came up on sections faster and hesitated a bit, and I made a couple of mistakes. I am excited that my riding is coming back. It's moving up in the right direction."
"If only I hadn't slipped a pedal I would've smoked Greg," laughs Peat, "But I am happy to finish on the podium. It's been a mixed bag this week with the weather. I rode decent, made a couple of mistakes in the woods and couldn't clip in for three corners where I really needed to be pedaling out of. I'm happy to get points for the Syndicate." Rennie had a dismal day finishing in 46th. "I was off the track, through the poles, through the tape, average run, not happy with myself. Things need to turn around soon," said Rennie.
A big thank you goes out to Peter, Melanie and the UCI for reinstating the five-person podium!!
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