Greg Minnaar is a 31 year-old veteran of the Mountain Bike World Cup circuit. The South African is a three time World Cup overall champion as well as a three time World Champion with the most recent title coming two weeks ago at the 2013 World Championships in his hometown of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Greg Minnaar Interview
“I started racing mountain bikes when I was probably 13 or 14. I started racing cross-country because that’s what there was in South Africa. I started racing downhill when I was 16 or 17. I’ve been racing World Cups now since about 2000. My first full season was with team Animal Orange, so I’ve been racing about 14 years.”
Being able to take home a set of rainbow stripes (the traditional symbol for a cycling world champion,) is a very special feat, let alone being able to do it at home. “Winning that title was something I’ve always wanted to do. Once you win two world champs it doesn’t feel complete, you want to win that third. Going into a world champs at home, in my home city… the meaning behind that is beyond words. I think that’s what added all of the pressure to it.”
Equipment has evolved significantly during Minnaar’s 14 year journey, and he touched on it briefly, shoes in particular. “The equipment is definitely evolving. I think that with all the new technology and new [shoe] rubbers, it really allows us to push it harder.”
Most riders would have been happy to rest on their laurels and their accomplishments, but Minnaar has more in store for his fans. “I feel that there’s more to do. I’ve won three world cup titles and won three world champs as well but there’s a couple more things I want to do. I feel like I am not completed yet in this sport. Once I do achieve them, I feel it will be easier to call it quits. Right now, I’m focused on racing.”
Getting into mountain biking is especially difficult in South Africa. “I think it’s pretty cool that mountain biking gets lots of exposure [at home.] Downhill is really expensive and in South Africa it’s really hard to get the equipment or the money to be able to buy the equipment. I find that [the exposure] is so widespread that it doesn’t only influence kids to try and get downhill bikes, but also cross-country as well. Just riding in general is being helped. It’s amazing how being a World Champion can have such a broad impact on the country and help develop the sport there.”
2013 Season Ending Injury
During the final round of the UCI Downhill World Cup in Leogang, Austria, Greg Minnaar suffered a knee injury in practice that put him out of the race.
“I was coming to a section in practice and my back wheel slipped off a log,” said the reigning World Champ. “I tried to run it out and I didn’t really hit the floor. I was waiting for a gap in riders to go back up to get my bike and when I leaned forward to cross the track my knee flipped backwards. I rode down the side of the track to the pits knowing I had done something pretty bad. I’ve torn the meniscus and ACL, and as far as I know I’ll need surgery. I’m in conversations with my doctor in South Africa who is studying my MRI and we are exploring options for surgery.
Performance enhancement coach, Lawrence Van Lingen explains, “The most likely scenario is that Greg hyper extended (bent backward) his knee with a sideways, and or twist force, while trying to save the crash. This resulted in a near full rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament and a lengthwise tear in his medial meniscus (knee cartilage). This makes the knee unstable as the anterior cruciate helps stabilize the knee, which is why Greg’s knee gave out whilst trying to walk back to the track.”
The knee was immediately immobilized and supported after the accident. Greg was taken for MRI scans to confirm the diagnosis. So far Greg has made excellent progress with minimal pain and swelling, however there is still a strong possibility of surgery.
Despite this, Greg and Lawrence are confident he’ll be able to make a full recovery and return to racing by the start of the 2014 season.
Greg extends his thanks to Lawrence and all those who have taken care of him since the accident.
Despite the setback, Greg was still able to hold on to his position in the 2013 UCI World Cup series, placing 3rd overall at the end of the season.