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31st Aug 2008
Santa Cruz Syndicate's Greg Minnaar and Nathan Rennie top the podium in Canberra, Australia to the cheers of thousands of enthusiastic Aussie fans and Minnaar regains his lead in the UCI World Cup Downhill Series. It was an action packed day for the Syndicate as Minnaar, Peat and Rennie swept the semi-finals in number 1,2,3 positions, and the final was nearly the same but for a gust of wind blew Peat as he jumped into the finish stretch causing him to loose his speed and he placed 7th on this blustery, stormy day.
The Syndicate arrived early to Australia to acclimate and spent two days in Sydney and four days training in the Blue Mountains, fitting in a surf session at Bondi Beach and a round a golf between training rides. Arriving in Canberra it was quite a different experience and seemed a bit odd, and Mt. Stromlo seemed barren and eerie.
Mt. Stromlo Forest Park is an interesting place. The bike park here has been very successful. Carolyn McKinlay explains, "In Canberra we have the Canberra Off Road Cyclists club which is the biggest mountain biking club in Australia with about a thousand people in it. About five years ago when we had a massive brush fire come through this area and it totally decimated everything as you can see. It was like a moonscape. We did have some riding tracks through here at the time so we put a proposal forward to the government that we could be able to turn it into a bike park. After lots of negotiations we agreed and we came up with a thing where we could have road riding as well as equestrian and cross country running, as well. So our club and the government have been working very closely, hand in hand, developing the park. We've lots more plans for the park. It's been incredibly successful."
Rennie says, " The weekend is going really well. Practice has been great. Obviously I've raced here before so I haven't really had to concentrate too much on different lines and such. I've just been feeling good. The crowds are all cheering and it's only practice day. The track is holding up really well. It's not really deteriorating that much. Things are just running really smoothly."
The track here is dry and dusty at the moment but I'm looking up at the clouds and it may rain. The track starts off and goes through a top rock garden and just meanders down the hill through a series of drops and jumps and dusty turns and through some more jump sections It basically just hold the same sort of theme, left to right turns all the way down to the bottom where it then flattens out and you pedal to the finish. The pedaling is going to be about 35 seconds worth. I think. And it's at the very end of the course so it's just burn time, absolute burn! It will be punishment!"
Minnaar says, " There's not much of a hill, but they did a good job of building a downhill on what they've got. There are flat bits down at the bottom so there is no way to avoid them, but to hit it straight through will be hard on the legs. It's hard in practice. There's a lot of pedaling and the air is really dry and dusty so it's hard on the lungs. I think tomorrow it's going to be important to hammer the top and hammer the bottom. It's going to be hard and tiring, but it's going to have the be done by just pedaling as fast as you can at the bottom."
After raining all night the riders took to the track for practice and thought the rain had improved the track. With the sun breaking through the clouds the weather forecast said the rain would end at 10:00 am, but just the opposite happened at 11:20, 10 minutes before the men's semi-final the rain started drenching the track and the riders. It made the last pedaling section miserable as the guys slogged to the finish line. It was a Syndicate sweep of the top three positions with Minnaar taking top honors and max qualifier points for his efforts trying to collect as many points as possible. Peaty came second with a 2:47.96 just .32 behind Minnaar's 2:27.64, and rounding out the top three was Rennie with a 2:49.48.
Rennie said, "I had a pretty cruisy run, I didn't want to blow out too much. I just wanted to have a good solid run." Peaty says, "The qualifying went pretty good. The heavens opened up before we left the start gate and it was raining on the way down. I kept to my dry tires even though it had rained quite a bit and I didn't have any problem. I put a good time down and with Greg first, me second and Rennie third, you couldn't ask for much more from the Syndicate." Minnaar says his run didn't start off very well and he found himself off near the tape in some soft mucky sections, but once he got back online he got back up to speed he said it killed his legs a bit. He carried on to the finish and lost his speed at the bottom jump, then looked at the finish line and tried to get there as quick as he could pedaling in a massive gear which worked out for the fastest semi-final time.
Here's what the guys had to say about their final runs:
Peaty says, "I felt really good, had a good qualifier and felt strong for the finals. I had a really good run all the way down and was feeling pretty strong and pedaling hard at the last jump to jump it like normal but a big gust of wind just came and blew me off and I landed with a foot off, landed and slide sideways on the landing and just lost all my speed and came in a bag of s—t."
Crowd favorite, Rennie says, "Yeah, it just feels great to do well. The home crowd and everyone was cheering for so long. I had a pretty good run, really, and that's all I could've done coming down over the finish, then pedaling through the mud and the flat pedals was just torture. I barely got over the last jump with maximum effort, so second is good, is great! I'm pretty happy, of course I'm happy and I'm just glad. It's my best result this year."
Minnaar was Magic today on this track winning both the semi-final and finals and taking over the series lead which was the goal coming into this event. Minnaar says of his win, "I knew I made a lot of mistakes in the semi so I knew I could improve my time. What I tried to do is just save my legs for the bottom and I had a clear line to the bottom and I just got hard on the legs and went as hard as I could for the win, clean and simple!"
The Syndicate is looking forward to the finals in Schladming, Austria and is thrilled to go into the final with the series lead. Josh Bryceland broke his collarbone and will sit out the rest of the season but will be in Schladming to see his teammates finish at the series finale Sept. 13th.
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