Monday, September 15, 2008

A Couple of Nice Surprises

Surprise Party I've never been thrown a surprise party before, so when Candice started preparing large quantities of food as soon as we arrived home on Friday evening, a surprise party was the last thing on my mind.

When my brother and his wife arrived for a drink and to wish me for my birthday last Monday, even Candice was surprised
, as it was a complete coincidence. However, half an hour later and the guests started arriving, the penny finally dropped. And I had been hoping for an early night...!
I hope everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did, and Babes, thanks a million. I can't believe you managed to organise everything without me catching on!

Greg Minnaar - World Cup Champion


The World Cup Final for the Downhill in Schladming, Austria, was expected to be the most hotly contested final of the weekend, with upsets possible in both the men's and women's races. However, both Rachel Atherton (Animal Commencal) and Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), the leaders coming into Saturday's races, were able to successfully hang on to the top spots in the overall standings.

Atherton did it by decimating the competition, while Minnaar had a little bit tougher time of it - finishing fifth behind first time World Cup winner Sam Blenkinsop (Yeti-Fox Shox).

The long and steep course was demanding of both skills and nerve to do well. Rain during the week leading up to the races also meant that large ruts were carved into the track, making it both bumpy and slippery - a tough combination.

In the men's race it was a newcomer to the top ranks who finished number one, in the person of the young Kiwi Sam Blenkinsop. Prior to this win, Blenkinsop had a fifth in Andorra this season, and a silver medal in the Junior ranks at the Worlds in 2006. However, he was consistently the strongest rider, winning both the semi-final and final.
In the semi-final, both Minnaar and his rival - defending champion Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Iron Horse) stumbled, with Hill taking fourth and Minnaar sixth.

This meant that Minnaar went into the final with a 116 point lead on Hill, and had to finish no lower than seventh to guarantee that he would win his first major title since 2005.
Neil Donoghue (Bike Radar) set the fast early time, which stood up until Andrew Neethling (GT) lopped off two-tenths of a second, followed immediately by Aaron Gwin (Yeti-Fox Shox) doing the same thing. Gwin kept the lead until his team mate Justin Leov took a more significant three seconds off, with seven riders remaining.

Fabien Barel (Subaru) was next, but couldn't take the lead, followed by Minnaar, who took the top time for a couple of minutes before his team mate Steve Peat bumped him to second by almost four seconds. Then it was Hill, who knocked another second and a half off the leading time.
At this point, with three riders remaining, Minnaar could finish no lower than sixth, and so the pressure to win the title was over.

But the battle for the final big win of the season was still underway. World champion Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal) slotted in just behind Hill, and Hill's young team mate Brendan Fairclough was fastest at the halfway point, but crashed further down. So it was up to Blenkinsop, and he proved decisively that his semi-final win was no fluke, beating Hill by over a second and a half to record his biggest victory and moved up to the final podium spot for the overall World Cup.

"It feels good to be back on top," agreed Minnaar. "I had a feeling that a lot of people were writing me off, but I got through some injuries, got healthy and now I'm back." "Today was hard, but I did what had to be done. I didn't start to have a conservative run, I was pushing hard. In the fifth corner I washed out a bit, so at that point I backed off a little bit. Honestly, I'm not particularly happy with my ride, it was a bit of a crap ride for me. That was disappointing, but to win the overall is pretty fantastic."

Blenkinsop was at a bit of a loss to explain why everything came together so perfectly. "Something must be working! The training has been better, and I'm on a way better bike now, so it has made everything awesome for me. This is major for sure."
"I had no idea that I could even win the semi, it was weird ... I was hoping for a top-5 if I was lucky. But I love coming to this place [Schladming], it's always good for me. In the final I had a few little mistakes, but nothing major, and I knew it was going good coming to the bottom, so I just 'let it go' to try and gain any extra time.

Well done Greg!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This morning someone came up to me as I was loading my bike back into the car. It was 5:45, and still only about 11°C, and he said to me "I don't know how anyone can have such dedication for something that doesn't earn them any money". I'm never sure how to respond to comments like this; those were his words, but his tone said "you're an idiot to be out here at 5:45, when it is still only 11°C, prancing around in lycra".

Normally I would dismiss him and his attitude, but recently I questioned this dedication myself. I didn't ride for 8 weeks, and after a while I didn't think I was missing it. I was enjoying the extra 2 hours sleep in the morning, and some late night TV watching on occasion.

It was only when I got back on the bike that I remembered what I was missing. I love how I feel when I'm on my bike. I love the sense of freedom and solitude, and the exhilaration of taking a good line on a fast corner. I get time to plan the day ahead and think about life in general. It's a great stress reliever.

So what did I say to this guy that approached me?

"I need the exercise!"

He didn't look like he really cared.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Best Laid Plans

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." So my plan to take a couple of weeks off the bike to recoup somehow turned into 8 weeks, and as time went on, the harder it became to get back out there. Well on Saturday that all changed, and I made the first few tentative steps to getting back into shape before summer. A gentle ride out to Umhlanga was all I was capable of, but at least it was a start.


Last weekend Candice had to work, and I took the boys on a cruise around Durban Harbour. The weather was fine and we were having a great time until, on the return leg, I witnessed a small fishing boat overturn in the distance. I alerted the skipper and we sped to the rescue. The pictures tell the story:

Another fishing boat arrived on the scene, and they and ourselves managed to maneuver the capsized boat over to a sandbank where the guys in the water could get far enough out of the water that they could climb into our boat, but it took time, and I reckon they were in the water for at least half an hour. All's well that ends well, but this could have been serious. Three of these guys appeared not to be able to swim, at all, and fully clothed they could easily have drowned. As it was, one of the guys couldn't hold on, and we had to throw him a life ring to keep him afloat!

The boys were understandably quite upset by all the goings on - I hope it doesn't change their love for the water.

Thanks for reading.