In celebration of the limited edition Santa Cruz Minnaar V10 Replica, we grabbed some time with the World Champion. Here’s what he had to say.
First of all, congratulations on your third World Championship victory—it must have been unreal to win in front of your hometown crowd in Pietermaritzburg, RSA. How does it feel to have Santa Cruz celebrate the occasion with a special edition World Championships V10?
Yea, it’s very special. To be able to have your exact bike available to the public is a huge honor. When I say exact, I mean down to the millimeter, ENVE has produced the same size handle bar I use, 808mm.
South Africa isn’t on most people lists of mountain bike meccas, despite the fact that your home country has turned out a handful of incredibly talented mountain bike racers. How did you get your start in mountain biking?
My sister got into the sport before I did; I was still racing motocross at the time. I always went and supported her racing, and decided, while I was there, I might as well give it a go… I did, and Loved it.
As a representative on the UCI’s Athlete’s Commission, what role did you have in working with the UCI to get your hometown to host World Championships?
I didn’t have anything to do with South Africa’s bid for the World Championship. My role on the Commission is to represent the Gravity Riders, and this will be my 4th year on the commission.
How did you manage the season-long pressure leading up to the event? Was it joy or relief to see green when you looked back after crossing the finish line?
One of my biggest fears was getting injured prior to World Champs—there was not 1 race that I didn’t think about getting hurt. It unfortunately was a relief wahaha—there was way too much pressure to really enjoy the World Championships.
This year marks a decade since your first World Championships win, and a dozen years since your first World Cup overall. In that time, the sport has changed significantly—tracks have gotten rougher, bikes have become more capable, and there’s the constant influx of young talent. Is there any secret to your consistency, despite the ever-changing face of the sport?
A day ago I was showing some guys my collection of World Champion and World Cup bikes, and you can see the evolution of the sport. Like with everything, you have to keep progressing, what worked yesterday might not work today. And especially in DH, you can never get set in your ways. Staying consistent, I can only put that down to preparation.
Your list of accomplishments is impressive, to say the least. You’ve won World Cups and World Cup overalls, and been World Champion three times. What do you hope to accomplish in the seasons to come?
For 2014, I’d like to get a couple of world cup wins. I was disappointed with my 2013 World Cup season, I didn’t really feel like I was a contender, and I want to change that next season.
You rode for RockShox under the BlackBox program in 2011, and made the switch to FOX’s renowned factory team in 2012. How much of an adjustment period was there when making the switch?
There wasn’t much to be honest, Fitzy and his Team made the transition super easy.
The writing has been on the wall for some time, but 2013 ushered in the widespread use of longer wheelbase bikes for downhill racing. You got into the mix, running a custom offset headset on your V10 to increase the reach. Is it simply a case of Elite riders seeking whatever minuscule advantage is available, or do you think the trend towards longer wheelbases will continue to gain momentum?
When pushing the limits, you can’t be worried about trends. Riders are going faster and we need the stability. This is all progression on the MTB, you even see it happening in Enduro and XC.
You’ve been teammates with some of the most talented riders in downhill. If you could pick any three teammates, past or present, to go on a riding trip with, who would they be and why?
I have been with the same 2 teammates for some time—no need to take them out the equation. I wouldn’t mind bringing Missy back into the mix—can you imagine the Syndicate with Missy Giove?