Team ChainReactionCycles.com/Nukeproof raced at the first round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup over the weekend in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where downhill riders Matti Lehikoinen and Joe Smith finished 15th and 38th place, respectively. In the 4X competition, Michael Mechura went out in the first round of the finals, with older brother Lukas making it through to the quarter-finals.
Here's Team Manager Nigel Page with his round-up of the weekend's action:
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup campaign kicked off this past weekend in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, with the racing insanely fast as it always is at World Cup level.
The track wasn't to everyone's taste with the hugely long flat pedalling section in the middle. It was like two great downhill tracks - one at the top and one at the bottom with a one minute-plus long flat section joining them up. It was so flat that the riders were using semi-slick rear tyres, and some even resorted to using Gravity Dropper seatposts to enable them to sit down and pedal properly.
Not amazing for World Cup downhill but other parts of the track were amazing to watch the riders on, with huge jumps and insane speeds. The South African weather and crowd didn't disappoint either. Scorching weather made the track hard-packed and fast, with the race fans screaming encouragement to the fastest racers in the world.
With only two of our four riders competing (as Matt Simmonds and Lewis Buchannan are currently out with injury) Matti Lehikoinen and Joe Smith gave it their all in the first World Cup race on the new Nukeproof Scalp bikes.
This track didn't particularly suit Matti or Joe as much as some of the steeper more technical tracks later in the season, but they both put in great runs and times qualifying easily for the Sunday finals.
Joe Smith ended up in 38th place, a little disappointing for him position-wise, but with a great time and showing great skills and style on the live TV screen. Matti Lehikoinen pulled out a great result finishing in 15th place in a very tight race and stacked field.
It was a great solid start for Matti in his 2011 World Cup campaign, and a fantastic result for Nukeproof's first World Cup downhill outing. The bike proved it's as good on the pedally tracks as it on the rougher, more technical tracks the team have raced on so far this season at the UK Nationals.
The race ended up being really exciting with the top places being decided by the last guys down the hill. American rider Aaron Gwin took his first ever World Cup win with a staggering run, narrowly beating crowd favourite and home town hero Greg Minnaar by just 0.2 seconds. Gee Atherton finished in third, Fabien Barel fourth and the legend Steve Peat rounded out the podium in fifth place.
It was sad to see **** Hannah going down hard on his race run after qualifying fastest - thankfully he wasn't too badly injured.
Current World Champion Tracy Moseley narrowly took the win by 0.2 seconds over fellow Brit Fionn Griffiths in the women's race with France's Emmeline Ragot in third.
Disappointing 4X result for the Mechura brothers
In the 4X on Friday night, Team ChainReactionCycles.com/Nukeproof riders Lukas and Michael Mechura didn't have the first World Cup round results they were hoping for. Michael went out in the first round of the finals with a crash near the end of the long track, battling for the second position and transfer spot.
Lukas made it through the first round but was knocked out of the competition in the quarter finals by eventual first and second place finishers Jared Graves and Michal Prokop - both former World Champions in 4X, so a really tough quarter final race for Lukas.
Both Michael and Lukas need to work on their qualifying runs to give them easier early rounds and gate positions.
All-in-all it ended up being a really exciting start to the World Cup season and not a bad result for the team. We are looking forward to the next round at Fort William and the rest of the races with more typical style downhill tracks, and hopefully a full team with Matt and Lewis back.
Look out for all our team coverage from South Africa and some great video and photography from MTBCut.
Thanks to Dave and Carl our team mechanics for keeping the bikes running smooth, and to Shirley and Rob our amazing hosts at Fountains BB for the best food and accommodation.
Source: Matt Cole, Chain Reaction Cycles