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With the DH World Champs looming, we check in with Greg Minnaar & Aaron Gwin
FRANCE’S AMAURY PIERRON may have won the DH World Cup series with one round still to go, but when it comes to the World Championships, all eyes will still be on the two big dogs of downhill, America’s Aaron Gwin (19 World Cup wins) and South Africa’s Greg Minnaar (21 World Cups and three World Champs). Both suffered injuries that prevented them from competing in all rounds of this year’s World Cup – reigning champ Gwin injured his thumb during his finals run in Fort William, while Minnaar broke his arm a couple of days before. So, does that mean
they’ve set their sights on winning the coveted rainbow stripes in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, instead?
“Yes, I’d definitely say that,” Gwin told us. “It was a huge bummer for me having to pull out of the World Cup season, I’m really looking forward to World Champs now. I had that small crash in Val di Sole, which aggravated the injury. It set me back, but we’re making progress now and I’m hoping to be 100 per cent before Lenzerheide.”
Minnaar said he was just keen to get racing again. “I think it’s important for me to get back up to speed before Lenzerheide, so I can be back to my usual self. I’ve enjoyed watching the sport from the sidelines but my true love is between the tape. It’s been a challenge, but I’m back riding downhill and now I need to get strong and fast.”
What about the pressure of the World Champs being a winner-takes-all event? “Yeah, it’s a totally different pressure,” said Minnaar. “If you’ve never had the rainbow stripes, you’re going to always want them, and if you’ve had them, you’re going to want them again!”
Gwin wasn’t so sure. “I kinda feel less pressure, in a way,” he explained. “For me, it’s a ‘win or nothing’ kind of race. It’s just one run and you can just go for it.”
And do these two greats value the prestige that comes with winning a World Championships? “Well, seeing as I’ve never won it, I’m beginning to value it very highly! Haha!” laughed Gwin.
“It’s definitely high up there,” said Minnaar. “I thought it was easy, after winning my first World Champs in 2003, but it took me another nine years to win my second!”
“There are elements of my training that we’ll adjust towards the Lenzerheide track, but the preparation remains the same as for every race,” Minnaar told us.
Meanwhile, Gwin is focused on letting his thumb heal and getting his body back in shape. “Lenzerheide isn’t the most physical track on the circuit,” he said. “So I really want to focus on my speed and to have my bike set up well, so that I’m comfortable pushing the pace.”
Finally, how do they feel about putting on those national jerseys to represent their countries? “It’s fun to wear the USA jersey,” said Gwin. “It’s cool to have that extra vibe with my US teammates.”
Minnaar agreed: “It’s really cool! Guys get creative and do up their bikes and gear in national colours. It always makes World Champs fun.”
You can catch all the action from Lenzerheide live on Red Bull TV. The downhill racing takes place on Sunday 9 September.
“IFYOU’VENEVERHADTHERAINBOW STRIPES,YOU’REGOINGTOALWAYS WANTTHEM.ANDIFYOU’VEHADTHEM, YOU’REGOINGTOWANTTHEMAGAIN!”
Previous page Aaron Gwin was on for the win in Lenzerheide at last year’s World Cup, until a flat tyre put him out of contentionThis page Greg Minnaar is looking to repeat his Swiss success in 2017 and claim his fourth World Champs title