A strong performance for GT Factory Racing at the first World Cup of the year in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Under constant changing conditions the Brit pair of Marc Beaumont and Gee Atherton took to the challenging track at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park in a bid to start the season off on a flyer.
The weekend started badly for Beaumont who hit a tree on the first day of practice, he had tonurse that injury through qualifying which he did well to take a solid 15th spot. Team mate Atherton started slowly in the hope to build up for the finals on Sunday, his qualifier a very solid 4th spot and just 1.7 seconds from fastest rider and native Greg Minnaar.
The weather however threatened to change things dramatically as a heavy rain storm sat over Pietermaritzburg for 4 hours on Saturday evening, the risk of a wet track was not to anyones likings as the soil tends to turn to ice making even the Worlds best struggle down the hill on the clay based surface.
Thankfully for all the competitors the weather improved next morning and the track dried through practice.
When Marc took to the track for his race run the course was looking in great conniption but a mistake on the steepest part of the track meant he lost valuable time on the first sector, with the bit between his teeth he pushed hard on the lower two thirds to bring that time back, a credible 4.06.854 was a agonising 4 seconds off the podium but only good enough for 18th on the day.
Gee’s turn and he had been given a tall task as Australian Mick Hannah had set a blistering time up on the top section, Gee struggled to get going on the top but turned things around on the lower and middle sections. He flew into the finish arena just 4 tenths behind Hannah.
Reigning World Cup champion Aaron Gwin bettered Hannah’s time only to see hometown hero Greg Minnar push hard in front of the home crowd to claim the win. Gee happy with 4th made the podium once again and started the season on the right foot while Marc eyes up the next round in Italy where both he and Gee have won previously.
A big break to that race in June, enough time for Gee’s sister Rachel to return to racing and start her assault on World Cup glory.
All photos: Sven Martin