Greg Minnaar, Life in a Fishbowl
In just 2 short weeks the UCI World Cup Series kicks off in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, hometown of 3-time World Cup Downhill Champion, and 13-time World Cup Downhill winner, Greg Minnaar. At first one might think of this as a big hometown advantage, but upon introspection Greg reveals the unique pressures and curious nature of having the elite mountain bikers of the world descend into your backyard, almost literally, as the race track is within one mile of his home. And all eyes of the town are upon him to deliver another win so they can again be filled with all the excitement and pride they felt when he won there two years ago.
Greg elated with his family around to experience his win 2 years ago.
Added to the normal pressures of a World Cup race are the responsibilities of branching out and making promotional and marketing opportunities for your sponsors, for media, and for charities. Greg takes his hometown celebrity and is utilizing this event to make a difference, maximizing the exposure for his team, and his outside business ventures, while raising money for an underprivileged school nearby.
Greg Minnaar Reflects
“It’s pre-season and I’m training full steam ahead. The opening round of the World Cup is in my playground again…any decent quarterback could reach the finish area from my driveway! Two years ago I felt the pressure of racing at home. I had my family and friends watching and a crew of 300 supporters supporting! The pressure to win in front of them all was high, but I pulled it off. I almost feel that by winning two years ago I have doubled my pressure. Before the locals were cheering me on for the win, now they expecting it.
The locals are hungry for another win this year, can Greg deliver?
Every time I leave home I drive past the finish area. When I go running, I run parts of the XC track. When I go for an XC ride I cross the DH track multiple times. Whenever I'm at the pub, someone will come up to me and ask me about the track...I can’t seem to get away from it.I'm sitting at the coffee shop having bacon and eggs when a middle aged man walks past with his family. He stops, turns around and walks towards me and says, "Greg, are you going to win the World Championships again?" I know he’s meaning the Pietermaritzburg World Cup. I reply, “Yeah, gonna give it my best." He then says, "You have done it before, you can do it again, and why you sitting here? You can be on the track getting extra practice, home advantage!" and off he went.
What hometown advantage? I battle to get down to the pub these days! Time has been my biggest competitor so far this season, there is not enough time in the day to get everything done that I need to. I recently joined forces and got involved with two companies: The True Collection and Global Racing. With Global Racing we have been working with Kabuto Helmets to come up with the new IXA GM Downhill Helmet, which is coming out in April/May. And with True Collection we are running a Fan Club again in conjunction with True Athlete to raise money for a disadvantaged school here in RSA. We also bringing out JT Holmes to parachute in to the finish area! It’s gonna be tight and I don’t think he’s dropping from much altitude, but with all his base jump experience I’m sure it's going to be a piece of cake for him. Oh yeah, and between all of this going on I’ve been training and getting ready for the season….
Greg celebrating with the locals, let the parties begin!
And then there is all the press and media, but not the usual press and media, we talking extra press and media...the kind that have not a clue about downhill or mountain biking and that need an afternoon with you because their publication is so important, and I am so lucky that they have chosen me to write about. And the opening question that gets fired to me is, “Which discipline is your strength: downhill, 4X or cross-country? I replied, “What do you mean?” The interviewer proceeded to ask me, “Out of the three disciplines you’re competing in, which one do you feel you going to perform the best in?”... Every day I feel I’m getting interviewed by someone, media or local, I just want to write out all the standard questions they ask, write down the answers, get it printed up on a post card so when I see either of the two, I can reach in to my pocket and give them a card.
The racing may be done for the day, but the questions are always rolling it. It's all part of the job.
Two years ago I left town two weeks before the World Cup to get away from it all and it paid off with a win. I relive that race win often. No race win will ever mean as much to me as that win did. I had my number one fan watching….and I managed to pull it off for her.
Greg shares a hug with his number one fan!
What most people don't understand is that I feel like a fish out of water racing at home. Racing a World Cup and sleeping in your own bed, picking a bike out of your garage to roll down to the finish area in the mornings, having Granny Stevens (who is always complaining about noise!), wish you luck as you about to head up for your run is not a normal World Cup! Take me to Fort William any day and I'll feel way more at home racing there than I do in my own playpen!”South Africa treats Greg Minnaar as a national treasure - we can excuse the former world champion for some pre-World Cup butterflies. Good luck!