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Monday, August 15, 2022


Lenzerheide: Minnaar's masterclass in risk management

Magnanimous in victory, Minnaar’s Lenzerheide win should never be discredited by tyre issues.

This past Saturday was a testing one for friends, family, pets and neighbours. Ordinarily mild-mannered mountain bikers across the country exploded from their sofas, rising into postures of fist-pumping delight, crowing with approval, as Greg Minnaar cemented another victory to the foundation of a legacy which will never be equalled.

Attached Image: Lenzerheide Greg Minnaar 4.jpg
Greg Minnaar. Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Minnaar’s riding at the Swiss round of this year’s UCI Downhill World Cup was typical: a masterclass in impeccable risk management and almost imperceptible speed. The great South African’s size (1.93m) creates a definite optical illusion, masking his pace on course. Smaller competitors appear quicker, but when the times are collated, Minnaar is inevitably faster.

There is but one man who is Minnaar’s true rival, American Aaron Gwin. Believed to be possibly the fastest downhill racer currently rolling up to the start gate of UCI DH events, Gwin’s the complete antithesis to Minnaar: unpopular, unconcerned with his image and nuggety in proportion to Greg’s tallness.

Although both graduated to DH racing from the world of motocross, their styles are hugely different: Minnaar’s graceful, Gwin is brutal. On Saturday, the American appeared to be brutalizing the Lenzerheide track to a victory that would be well clear of Minnaar’s leading time; Gwin was 1.5 seconds ahead with the finish-line in sight, when his rear tyre failed. Spectacularly.

Attached Image: Lenzerheide Aaron Gwin 1.jpg

Attached Image: Lenzerheide Aaron Gwin 2.jpg

Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool.
Gwin eventually limped home in 51st place, a flailing Flat Tire Defender foam tube testament to what could have been. In his post-race interview, Minnaar admitted that Gwin’s run was by far the weekend’s quickest, but there’s a tremendous difference between what could have, and should have, been the result.

Racing is risk management

During Friday’s qualifying, Minnaar managed to destroy the spokes on his rear wheel after misjudging a landing zone, descending onto – instead of clearing - some rocks. During Saturday’s race run, he adjusted his strategy, altered lines and finish fastest. On the same course, Gwin made different line choices, one of which destroyed his rear tyre – and tyre failures are not mechanicals, in DH racing, they are rider errors.

If a chain snaps, that’s a retrenched team mechanic. If fork or rear shock fails halfway through a run – that’s one factory suspension technician who’s never going to a UCI DH race ever again. Bar or stem failure? Almost irreparable consumer confidence damage for the brand involved.

Tyres are different. The contact patch is every rider’s own to manage, place and manipulate. It’s risk versus reward and unless the entire field flats in a race, tyre failures must be classed as individual rider responsibility. At this time, it would appear that available tyre technology simply isn’t commensurate to the lines choices Aaron Gwin is capable of taking, but understanding the limits of your equipment in the relation to the terrain you are presented with, is racing: because to finish first, you first have to finish.

Attached Image: Lenzerheide Greg Minnaar 3.jpg
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Covet no component. Have no excuses

A unique appeal of DH racing is the open formula applied to component choices and bike configuration. Riders can never table the excuse of being denied access to a specific component, gifting unfair advantage to a competitor. The option of changing sponsors or ‘stealthing’ a rival component for own use is always an option. Nor is there a series tyre sponsor, limiting all riders to roll the same rubber.

Gwin might be riding his own signature series of tyres, but off-season testing and the 11/10ths reality of his race runs are proving to be two very diverse realities. Amongst the most committed riders regarding his strength training, Gwin has the physiological ability to hold on when others are flailing, pinballing off technical features, and the resolve to take monumental risks.

The American is boundlessly spectacular to watch, but there’s a difference between creating a remarkable video segment and winning races. It’s a difference Minnaar understands better. Their contrasting styles and gallant quality of their rivalry, is crafting this 2017 season as being one of the most memorable yet. Greg won’t take full credit for a win where Gwin flatted, but the American would never approve of ‘should-have’ sympathy either.

*Stealthing: the act of using a rival component, in possible contravention of your sponsors, and therefore removing all recognisable traces of its graphics and branding

Attached Image: Lenzerheide Greg Minnaar 5.jpg
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool


Slick and super racing for Downhill Champs

Although strong morning winds made for alternate finish section arrangements, the short but exhilarating course kept spectators glued to their seats for the 2017 KZNMTB Provincial Downhill Championships at Cascades MTB Park on Sunday 2 July. Among the brilliant names of champions crowned was Elite Men’s Champ and fastest man down on the day, Christopher Philogene. Sabine “Beanie” Thies claimed the prize for the fastest Overall Women’s category, first Youth Woman, and third Youth overall.

Originally planned to finish on two tabletops in the Cascades forest, the tables were removed from the route because of the strong winds. Riders had to ride around this section to the end, which required a fast and hard peddle sprint.

The Championships consisted of two runs - the best of both then counted towards the final result. Results were often very close between the first and second runs, proving the consistency of many of these riders.

Christopher Philogene (Fox Head South Africa, Lapierre South Africa) who was the second fastest man at the KZNMTB Provincial Enduro Championships on Saturday, once again loved his racing the day before but reserved most of his energy for Sunday.

“Today was really loose out there and it was very hard to try and keep it on two wheels. The wind played a huge role in the forests – even though we were in the trees it still affects you and you still lose a bit of speed. You never know what you’re feeling like compared to what your time is going to be. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t do the jumps at the end because of the wind and had to go around, but it was quite different and a great challenge because we had to peddle to the end,” he said.

Young dynamite package, Beani Thies (GM Cycles, Foxhead SA, Specialized Bicycles, Blu Gel, Dirt Junki) who was the fastest female rider at Saturday’s Enduro Championships, said: “Its been a hectic season, but its come to an end now for KZN. Today started off well. My first practice run was good but I had a bit of a lie down on my second one. I didn’t get hurt though so I was fine.”

Thies said she reserved most of her energy for her second race run. “I was conservative and I just played it safe because I’m going overseas soon so I didn’t want to risk anything. I have no idea what I did on the second run to get the same time as my first, but I did it. The race organisers put some nice new changes in the track which was a really cool surprise,” she said.

McMaster Brothers, Cullen and Struan also showed brilliant consistency on their rides, and claimed themselves each a spot in the Overall Men’s podium.


Overall Men
1.Christopher Philogene 02:00.25
2.Jonathan Philogene 02:03.10
3.Timothy Bentley 02:03.47
4.Cullen McMaster 02:06.46
5.Struan McMaster 02:06.79

Overall Women
1.Sabine Thies 02:43.23
2.Kathryn Fourie 03:04.49
3.Sonja Engelbrecht 03:20.79

Elite Men
1.Christopher Philogene 02:00.25
2.Jonathan Philogene 02:03.10
3.Timothy Bentley 02:03.47

Junior Men
1.Cullen McMaster 02:06.46
2.Sharjah Jonsson 02:12.84
3.Keira Duncan 02:14.82

Youth Men
1.Connor Finnnis 02:17.13
2.Kayle Seaward 02:17.30
3.Jared Piek 02:54.90

Youth Women
1.Sabine Thies 02:43.23
Sub Junior Boys
1.Kyle Brand 02:50.56

Sub Veteran Men
1.Christopher Pearton 02:17.68
2.Ollie Jones 02:35.79
3.Wayne Sives 02:47.90

Sub Veteran Women
1. Kathryn Fourie 03:04.49
2.Nikki Alvin 03:26.94

Veteran Men
1.Craig Seaward 02:25.27
2.Jason Hall 02:30.21
3.Tyrone Pinnoy 02:37.64

Veteran Women
1.Sonja Engelbrecht 03:20.79

Master Men
1.Alastair Brand 02:49.61

Sprog Boys
1.Keagan Brand 02:39.73
2.Nate Tanner Hall 02:40.97
3.Liam Tyler Hall 02:48.06

Nipper Boys
1.Cullum Finnis 03:44.62
2.Vaughn Preston 04:02.01

Philogene ready to rock Provincial Champs

The KZNMTB Provincial Enduro and Downhill Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 June. Jonathan Philogene chats about his preparation before races, sportsmanship between him and his brother Christopher, and what lies ahead for him for the rest of the season.

Philogene spends between four and five days of the week on his bike. “I train almost every day on my enduro bike and try to also fit in downhill twice a week,” he added.

When looking at results of recent Provincial and National Cup Series races, he often finds himself neck in neck with younger brother, Christopher. He said that the two are always out to encourage and push each other to better their results. When finding new and better ways to get down the hill, they’re always sharing “We’re quite open with all of that. We share all of our lines or new things that we figure out on the track. There are no secrets. Well, I hope not,” he laughed.

Although a Cascades local and very often competing at the MTB Park, Philogene says that no two tracks are ever exactly the same. “Luckily there are a few tracks at Cascades and a couple different segments that we can link together. We don’t often race the same track twice in a row,” he said.

After the Provincial Championships, the Philogene brothers will then head to the final round of the SA National MTB Cup Series DHI event at Hakahana in Gauteng. “From there we make our way to Mankele for the SA National MTB Championships and will spend a week there ahead of the race,” he said.

Locals in and around Pietermaritzburg are encouraged to pull through to Cascades MTB Park on the weekend to witness some of the most thrilling MTB action in the province.

Entries for the KZNMTB Provincial Enduro and Downhill on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 June are closed, but late entries will be accepted at registration.

For more information about the KZNMTB Provincial Enduro and DHI Championships, click here:

Brand new Downhill course for KZN Champs

23 June 2016 – The KZNMTB Provincial Enduro and Downhill Championships presented by Greg Minnaar Cycles this year boasts a brand new downhill track, and will be taking place at Cascades MTB Park on 2 and 3 July.


Track designer, Nick Floros says that all procedures have been put in place to ensure that the brand new downhill course will bring exhilarating thrills for all of those involved.


Floros explained the story behind the change: “Well the guys have been riding the same World Cup Downhill course for the past five years, so they begin to know every inch and every rock and it isn’t doing much to push them and improve their riding.” 


Floros described the course as “quite technical” and “much steeper” with old camber spectrums in the mix as well. “It’s completely different to the old one,” he added.


Although the Championship event is aimed at the KwaZulu-Natal riders, Floros said that those from the other provinces should definitely get involved and come and ride the track.


While seemingly more difficult, Floros ensured that the course is also catered to those not as experienced. “We have focused quite a bit on the Elites in order to challenge them more. However, having said that, for every obstacle there is on the course, there is an easier way around it.”


He mentioned the importance of balance between the A and B lines in order to still get a good run in. “I’ve ridden the track on a trail bike, just to put it into context,” he concluded.


The Enduro tracks are being taken care of by Mark Sydney, who has so much to say about this year’s Enduro Champs course, but won’t. “The thing is, most of the trails have all been ridden before in Cascades, and when the riders know where the tracks are, the locals in Pietermaritzburg get the ‘advantage’ of riding them in the week and weekends for practice,” he said.


This way, Sydney felt that Pietermaritzburg locals wouldn’t have any advantage over other riders across the province, as there will be no information made available until just before the race. “Now, there’s no way that the course will be ‘over-practised’ on, and destroyed before the day of the event, so that the riders are able to have great trails ready for them.”


Sydney was firm in his decision not to dispose or give away anything. “I could say that it’s similar to last year’s trails, I could say that it’s completely different, but I’m not going to. Let the riders come and see for themselves, and be surprised on the day,” he added.


“We’re hoping to get a solid amount of entries, between 100-120, that would be fantastic,” Sydney concluded.


The once-off 2016 KZNMTB Provincial ENDURO and DOWNHILL Championships – presented by Greg Minnaar Cycles, is taking place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 July respectively. More information and entry details can be found here:


Odendaal, Fourie crowned KZN Downhill Champs

7 June 2015 – KwaZulu-Natal’s top mountain bikers brought their A-game as Tiaan Odendaal and Kathryn Fourie descended the mountain in the quickest times in the men and women’s races to claim top honours at the 2015 KZN Provincial Downhill Championships, sponsored by NMI-DSM, which was held at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg today, 7 June.

Despite the cold front having settled in for the weekend, the sun came out and provided warmer conditions whilst the riders lit up the track as they descended the full 2013 World Championship track for a chance at the provincial titles.

Fastest rider of the day and the recently crowned KZN Enduro Champion, Tiaan Odendaal, was happy with his victory and not even his attire slowed him down on the day. “I lost a bet with my mates, which is why I’m wearing a suit today,” he said. “My race was good, I’m tired, but it was good. The first run was 4 minutes 6 seconds and my friends told me I had to try and get below 4:00 with my next one, and I got 4 minutes exactly, so I’m happy to have knocked 6 seconds off my time.”

Odendaal posted the fastest times in both of his timed runs. “My bike was running ‘hundreds’ thanks to my friends, and a huge thank you to my mom for always supporting me as well. I’ve had some great support this weekend from my friends – its awesome. It feels pretty great to win KZN Champs, and in a suit as well,” he laughed.

Women’s winner, Kathryn Fourie, was all smiles at the end of the day, and full of energy despite two solid days of racing in both the Enduro and Downhill disciplines. “My race went pretty well, there were a few sketchy moments in the first run – I think everyone is always a bit nervous in the beginning. It was quite dusty and loose so I had to be careful out there. I had a good time at the end of it – I didn’t crash, which is always a bonus. My second run was pretty similar; a lot of people were feeling tired because the course is quite long. We normally compete on half of the distance so racing the full track is rather exhausting. I did the Enduro yesterday, which was awesome, but I could feel it in my legs today.”

The first Junior rider home, Jonathan Philogene, posted the second fastest overall time of the day and was honoured to take the win in his category. “Today went pretty well, even in the practice run. I had a few mechanicals, which we thankfully managed to fix. After I posted a good first race run I decided that I’m going to keep it chilled for the second race run and keep it safe so I could race again. The day was great as a whole and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end it.”

Jason Williams claimed the Youth Men’s provincial title despite crashing in his second timed run. “My first run was good, I managed to put in a solid run. I didn’t pedal much so I knew that I could make up a bit more time in the second run. But I lost a few seconds in my second run when I went straight into a tree. I had to hold it together after that and I got to the bottom safely.”

KZN MTB extends great thanks to the local sponsors of the Provincial Downhill and Enduro Series, as well as the weekend’s Championship events. Thank you NMI-DSM, your support is most valued.

Summary of Results – KZN MTB Championships (Downhill) – 7 June 2015

Full results will be available soon at

Overall Men

1.Tiaan Odendaal 04:00.19
2.Jonathan Philogene 04:06.70
3.Timothy Bentley 04:14.47
4.David Hogan 04:14.79
5.Gregg Brown 04:21.35
6.Kelvin Purchase 04:24.41
7.Andre Pretorius 04:24.44
8.Nigel Hicks 04:29.14
9.Dustin Rudman 04:31.12
10.Craig Paul 04:31.37

Overall Women

1.Kathryn Fourie 05:22.17
2.Kim Westbrook 05:43.78
3.Sabine Thies 05:46.19
4.Joanne Hicks 05:57.46
5.Lauren Hoyer 06:40.84

Elite Men

1.Tiaan Odendaal 04:00.19
2.Timothy Bentley 04:14.47
3.David Hogan 04:14.79
4.Gregg Brown 04:21.35

Elite Women

1.Kim Westbrook 05:43.78
2.Lauren Hoyer 06:40.84

Junior Men

1.Jonathan Philogene 04:06.70
2.Struan McMaster 04:39.58
3.Jaryd Austin 05:17.82

Youth Men

1.Jason Williams 04:43.27
2.Sharjah Jonsson 04:44.64
3.Peter Fogden 04:45.41

Sub Junior Boys

1.Kayde Brown 05:47.74
2.Timothy Camp 06:00.23

Sub Junior Girls

1.Sabine Thies 05:46.19

Sprog Boys

1.Kyle Brand 06:39.91

Nipper Boys

1.Keagan Brand 06:59.10
2.Cameron Curtis 09:14.93
3.Caleb Archer 10:56.86

Sub Vet Men

1.Nigel Hicks 04:29.14
2.Craig Paul 04:31.37
3.Mark Millar 04:33.48

Sub Vet Women

1.Kathryn Fourie 05:22.17
2.Joanne Hicks 05:57.46
3.Katherine McIver 07:17.29

Veteran Men

1.Thane Archer 05:11.77
2.Grant Dekker 05:25.24
3.Alastair Brand 05:44.10

Master Men

1.Leon Cronje 05:25.13
2.Peter Hoyer 05:53.85

National Champ aims to claim local downhill title

26 May 2015 – South African National DHI Champion, Tiaan Odendaal, will be looking to claim the provincial title at the 2015 KZN Provincial Enduro and Downhill Championships, sponsored by NMI-DSM, taking place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 6-7 June.

Spectators to the park will be able to see some of KZN’s best riders in action in two separate events – the popular and relatively new Enduro discipline on Saturday with the Downhill on Sunday. Both events start at 11:00 and not 12:00 as previously advertised.

Odendaal will be one of many young and not-so-young men and women aiming to claim the provincial titles on offer on a track that has attracted the world’s best downhill racers in previous years. Highly skilled riders will tackle the seriously technical track, where most sections will be the same as what was used in the World Cup last year.

The National Champion is feeling ready for battle. “I am feeling pretty comfortable, I mean it’s the same course as the SA Cup and I’m confident about it. Having said that, I am probably going to get a bit more nervous closer to the time.”

When asked whether or not he would be competing in the Enduro race the day before the downhill, Odendaal said, “I would love to race the Enduro but I’ll just have to see. If the distance between the timed sections is strenuous and the racing is very technical, then I probably won’t. For now my major focus is on Sunday’s downhill race – I don’t want to be too worn out before I race.”

Regular downhill podium contender, Tim Bentley, will also be competing in the DHI race and hopes to bring some excitement to the track with his flamboyant style and big air. Bentley – sponsored by Fox Head clothing and Greg Minnaar Cycles – feels the same way in terms of racing the National and Provincial races.

“For sure, a national race is always more stressful although there is still a bit of pressure for a provincial race. The vibe is a lot more relaxed than a national and there is a lot less tension between the riders on race day. But when you are in the start gate ready to go off for your run I think most riders would agree that you always feel nervous and feel the pressure of doing well no matter how big the race is.”

Downhill participants will have the morning to practice the technical sections on the track with official practice from 08:30-10:30 on Sunday, and racing starting at 11:00.

Saturday’s Enduro racing is open for anyone to race on any type of mountain bike, and its relaxed and social element have seen this discipline of mountain biking grow with each event on the provincial circuit.

Dave Drummond, event organiser for the KZN Enduro Champs, says that although the track is technical, there is nothing on the course that cannot be ridden on a XCO bike, even on a hardtail. With the focus being on fun, the Enduro race is sure to see another great turnout of keen riders looking for pure rider enjoyment!

Event details:

Date: 6-7 June 2015
Province: KwaZulu-Natal
Location: Cascades MTB Park
Entries Close: 3 June 2015
Starting Time: 11:00
Registration: Cascades, 08:00-11:00 & Cascades, 07:30-10:30
Late Entries: Yes
Timed By: Elite Timing
ROAG Registration: No
Event Website:

Online pre-entries are now open, and close on Wednesday 3 June. Click here to enter: Late entries will be accepted at registration with a nominal charge of R50 in addition to the entry fee.

Entrance for spectators is free, and all are welcome to attend to watch some spectacular mountain bike racing.

For more information, contact Rebecca van der Linde This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Dellah Paul This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Perfect sunny South Africa summer conditions greeted a field of 87 Downhillers at the first round of the 2015 KZNMTB Downhill Series presented by NMI-DSM in Karkloof on the 8th February. The Karkloof venue was a new addition to the series with a fast and unforgiving track awaiting the riders. Rain in the week leading up to the event had turned the clay-based lower woods into a veritable ice rink which would not dry and made tyre choice difficult, as the top of the track was drying fast with dusty corners beginning to blow out through morning practice. The Karkloof track was littered with large jumps interspersed with flatout speed sections and 2 long awkward rock gardens towards the bottom of the track. 

A large contingent of Gauteng riders made the trip down to Karkloof to give the KwaZulu-Natal locals a run for their money on the fast track. But when the dust had settled it was SA #1, and 38th ranked rider in the world Tiaan Odendaal who took top overall honours ahead of KZN Junior riders Jonathan and Chris Philogene (2 Bros Racing). The elite podium was rounded out by David Hogan and Kelvin Purchase who filled the overall podium with 4th and 5th respectively. 

The old men of DH gave the young guns a run for their money on the long track with the top 3 Masters riders (30-39 age cat) ending within the top 15 riders overall.

In the ladies class, 8 ladies entered to tackle the challenging course with top honours going to Kathryn Fourie in a time of 3:55.42. Kim Westbrook put in a solid performance following her win in the Enduro Event the day before to finish 2nd, 14 seconds adrift, whilst 12-year-old Sabine Thies rounded out the top 3 in her first ever DH race.

KZNMTB would like to thank its sponsors, NMI-DSM, Shreddtech, Ealite Athleate Performance, and Pyga for the prizes, and a thank you to the land owners Sappi Forestry, and Karkloof MTB Club for land access permissions. The series now moves to St Ives Mountain Bike Park in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands for round 2 on the 22nd March, where another brand new track awaits. 

Participant images available at


2015 KZNMTB Downhill 2 at St Ives

by Nigel Hicks   

The second round of the 2015 KZNMTB Downhill series presented by NMI-DSM took place in the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands at St Ives Mountain Bike Park on the 22nd March. The bike park with trails maintained by Big Wheel Cycles has only been open for 6 months and presented a brand new challenge to the 84 strong field. Practice on Saturday saw a dry and dusty track with loose corners beginning to blow out on the short, but exceptionally entertaining track. That all changed come raceday on Sunday though, with 50mm of rain falling overnight turning morning practice on Sunday into a veritable ice-rink. The sun was out however, with track conditions changing fast, so that when the gate dropped for the first riders race run a snaking trail of hero dirt awaited!

Current series leader Tiaan Odendaal (Leisure Lakes Bikes) continued his fine form taking overall top honours on the day with a time of 1.26.51, fending off a charging Tim Bentley (Fox Head SA) who ended 2 seconds adrift. Andrew Martin in his first year in the senior ranks had a storming run taking the bronze medal with a time of 1:32.79. Although short on time the new track was a highlight for the riders with tons of berms and flowing fast sections keeping all the riders on their toes.

In the ladies an 8 rider strong field began practice with current series leader Kathryn Fourie looking to again assert her dominance. It was not to be however as she crashed out hard with a broken collarbone leaving the top spot open for the picking. Joanne Hicks took up the charge and posted a respectable time of 2:13.94 to secure 3rd on the day. Sabine Thies (Greg Minnaar Racing) put in a sterling run for silver, but it was Kim Westbrook who took the top spot on the podium being the only lady to break the 2 minute barrier with a time of 1:59.55

KZNMTB would like to thank its sponsors, NMI-DSM, Shreddtech, Elite Athlete Performance, and Pyga for the prizes, and a huge thank you to the park owners at St Ives Restaurant and Wedding venue as well as Big Wheel Cycles for the trail preparations. The series now moves to Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park outside Durban for round 3 on the 19th April. Aldine Venter (Ink Black Photographic) and Elizabeth Cartwright (Philanthropic's) are thanked for the images.



KZN Mountain Bike Commission
PO Box 153, Merrivale, 3291
T 082 896 6864

F 033 387 6377

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