Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (March 19, 2012) — Downhillers Aaron Gwin (Temecula, Calif./Trek World Racing) and Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash./Team Norco International) turned in the top American performances of the opening round of the 2012 RockyRoads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa over the weekend. Last year’s world cup winner, Gwin started off the 2012 season with a silver in the men’s downhill and BMX Olympic medalist Kintner was fourth in the elite women’s event. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt. /Specialized Racing) led the American elite cross-country contingent with a 14th-place finish in the women’s event.
After an infinitely close qualifying round in the elite men’s downhill event, the stage was set for a showdown between Gwinn and hometown favorite Greg Minnaar (RSA/Santa Cruz Syndicate). Posting the second-fastest qualifying time by thousandths of a second Gwin was the penultimate rider down the mountain in Sunday’s final. The 2011 downhill world cup champion, Gwin stole the hot seat by just 3/10ths of a second from Michael Hannah (AUS/Hutchinson United Ride). Minnaar roared back from a slow start to take the gold from Gwin by 6/10ths of a second, much to the crowd’s delight. Nineteen year-old Neko Mulally (Reading, Pa./Trek World Racing) also finished inside the top 20, in 14th, for the U.S.
Former four-cross world champion and BMX Olympic bronze medalist Kintner recorded her first-ever downhill world cup podium appearance on Sunday. The only American female downhiller contesting the event, Kintner finished eight seconds behind the winning time of 4:33.806 recorded by Australian Tracey Hannah (Hutchinson United Ride).
Davison led the American charge in the elite women’s cross-country contest, finishing 14th despite getting caught up behind an early-race crash. The 28-year-old American who came back strong in 2011 after a hip injury sidelined her in 2010, finished just four minutes behind winner Maja Wloszczowska (POL). Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo./Subaru-Trek) followed on the heels of her American compatriot Davison in 15th place. Despite strong representation, the remainder of the American contingent fell outside of the top 20.
The essentially three-woman race saw the Polish strongwoman Wloszczowska grind out the victory ahead of the Canadian duo of Emily Batty (Subaru–Trek) and world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team).
“Davison and Irmiger rode fairly well in the elite women’s race and I expect they will continue to improve,” said USA Cycling Mountain Bike & Cyclo-cross Programs Director Marc Gullickson.
Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont. /Subaru-Trek) was the top American elite men’s finisher in 42nd, 08:23 behind victor Nino Schurter (SUI/Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing Team) who finished the six-lap affair in 1:30:38. Twenty-two year-old Stephen Ettinger (Cashmere, Wash. /BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team) also finished 46th to help lead the six-man American contingent.
“Ettinger had a solid ride for his first world cup start out of the U23 ranks,” explained Gullickson.
Supported by USA Cycling’s National Development Program, Connor Bell (Harrisonburg, Va./Rocktown Racing) finished a strong 11th place in the junior men’s event. He was joined in the top 20 by Casey Williams (Big Bear City, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized).
The United States currently sits seventh in the elite women’s and 10th in the elite men’s UCI Olympic qualification nation ranking. The 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will continue with round #2, April 13 – 14 in Houffalize, Belgium.
2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup #1
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
March 17-18, 2012
Men’s Elite Downhill
1. Greg Minnaar (RSA/Santa Cruz Syndicate) 3:57.980
2. Aaron Gwin (Temecula, Calif./Trek World Racing) +0.632
3. Michael Hannah (AUS/Hutchinson United Ride) +0.994
14. Neko Mulally (Reading, Pa./Trek World Racing) +6.327
31. Richard Rude Jr. (Redding, Conn./Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team) +12.047
36. Duncan Riffle (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dirt Norco Race Team) +13.211
38. Luke Strobel (Issaquah, Wash.) +13.584
43. Curtis Keene (Fremont, Calif./Specialized Racing – USA Gravity) +15.038
44. Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah/Specialized Racing – USA Gravity) +15.072
51. Eliot Jackson (Westlake Village, Calif./Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team) +16.656
63. Logan Binggeli (Saint George, Utah/KHS Factory Racing) +20.070
77. Kevin Aiello (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./KHS Factory Racing) +27.285
Women’s Elite Downhill
1. Tracey Hannah (AUS/Hutchinson United Ride) 4:33.806
2. Manon Carpenter (GBR/Madison Saracen Downhill Team) +0.949
3. Emmeline Ragot (FRA/MS Mondraker Team) +2.810
4. Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash./Team Norco International) +8.492
Women’s Elite Cross-country
1. Maja Wloszczowska (POL/CCC Polkowice) 1:34:01
2. Emily Batty (CAN/Subaru–Trek) +0:00:04
3. Catharine Pendrel (CAN/Luna Pro Team) +0:00:23
14. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt. /Specialized Racing) +0:03:59
15. Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo./Subaru-Trek) +0:04:21
32. Judy Freeman (Brighton, Colo./Crankbrothers Race Club 11) +0:08:35
40. Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo. /Luna Pro Team) +0:10:54
41. Mary McConneloug (Chilmark, Mass./Kenda-Seven-NoTubes) +0:11:19
42. Katie Compton (Colorado Springs, Colo. /Rabobank Giant Off-Road Team) +0:11:33
52. Chloe Woodruff (Tucson, Ariz./Crankbrothers Race Club 11) +0:16:11
54. Willow Rockwell (Durango, Colo. /Trek World Racing) +0:17:07
Men’s Elite Cross-country
1. Nino Schurter (SUI/Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing Team) 1:30:38
2. Burry Stander (RSA/Specialized Racing) +0:00:11
3. Manuel Fumic (GER/Cannondale Factory Racing) +0:00:59
42. Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont. /Subaru-Trek) +0:08:23
46. Stephen Ettinger (Cashmere, Wash. /BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team) +0:8:58
55. Adam Craig (Bend, Ore. /Rabobank Giant Off-Road Team) +0:09:37
63. Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va./Cannondale Factory Racing) +0:11:49
71. Spencer Paxson (Seattle, Wash. /Kona) +0:12:53
72. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo. /Subaru-Trek) +0:12:53
Junior Men’s Cross-country
1. Anton Cooper (NZL/Trek World Racing) 1:09:48
2. Victor Koretzdy (FRA/Bikepark.ch-Schoot) +4:29
3. Nicolas Sessler (BRA) +5:54
11. Connor Bell (Harrisonburg, Va./Rocktown Racing) +10:42
16. Casey Williams (Big Bear City, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized) +15:25
Source: Andrea Smith