ONE HUNDRED TIMES
ACROSS THE LINE
It's not the winning it's the taking part that counts. And for one man it counts all the way to one hundred, but Greg Minnaar didn't just turn up at 100 World Cups to bed in the tracks and make up the numbers. The tall South African, with neat hair and text-book whip conquered them with a lethal 60% podium hit rate. One of, if not 'the' greatest legends of downhill has been turning heads further than one of his look-backs, since before the millennium and to this day has 3 World Championship titles and 16 World Cup wins. Some people don't like birthdays and many like an anniversary even less and it was clear there were no bells and whistles on this one in Greg's mind. But he's sure on one thing; he loves to race and he'll be out there running the lift until the cable breaks or his fragile old bones give out in the braking ruts. Greg Minnaar the rider, racer... role model, hits an epic milestone. And he can backflip.
PB: Who is Greg Minnaar?
|My first awareness of Greg was when he was 16 years old. I was racing back then and I remember hearing some kid called Greg Minnaar had his own website and I thought wow, who's this cocky little sh*t, has his own website! As he started coming up in the elites I think it was very apparent who he was going to be - Kathy Sessler - Team Manager - Santa Cruz Syndicate| PB: Well Greg, you're one hundred. Congratulations! How excited are you?
|Wow. How do you answer that... A very simple person that loves to ride bicycles and motorbikes. And that loves living - GM| PB: Alright then, let's test your memory for a bit and get your reactions up to speed for qualifying tomorrow ha.Favorite race?
|Haha actually I only found out in Leogang that this would be my 100th. Everyone puts these stats together, but you know I have no idea. Anyway it was the only upside to getting injured last year was that it would be here and not in Australia where I've not been too much before. Europe is where I grew up racing, I lived in the UK quite a few years so I'm glad the 100th has come here and where I have these good memories - GM|
GM: Mont St Anne 2008Worst race?
GM: Brazil 2006. Had a nail through the tire on the fastest split. Lost the overall.Favorite track and least favorite track?
GM: Really there are none, I enjoy to race aspects of every track. Biggest crash?
GM: Vigo 2007... clipped in OTB.Biggest party?
GM: Can’t remember…obviously.Worst logistical nightmare?
GM: Yet to come. Got to get to London by 8.30 on the Sunday after Leogang. Muddiest race?
GM: Les Gets ‘99 Straight soap or fancy omega 3 rejuvenators?
GM: Straight soap, hair and all. Everything with the soap.Biggest rival?
GM: MyselfBiggest inspiration
GM: Steve and Nico. And Greg Albertain (South African motocrosser).Greatest fear?
GM: Flying! It's unfortunate, but true. Any turbulence I am terrible.Dream retirement destination?
GM: Pietermaritzburg........... 2025!PB: If you had never found bikes, where do you think you would be right now?
PB: Or any extreme sports?
|Motocross was my passion, I would probably have raced that. I lived for motocross. When my parents bought a bicycle shop I couldn't ride as much as I used to and it changed my direction to push bikes - GM| PB: Where does your motivation to race and win come from?
|Well I studied architecture, but to be honest I really battled with my final exams at school... I drew a disaster of a place, I don't know what happened, but it all went haywire I don't think it would have gone well - GM| PB: Is there a motto or quote you try to live by that's helped you along?
|Growing up in a family of three as the youngest, I was competitive from such a young age. My father would always say 'you can never let a girl beat you' and I was always trying to be better than my sisters. We'd be on a family holiday or something with my sisters who were six years older, playing soccer or something on the beach and I'd have to win, I think that's where it kicked off. I started racing motocross when I was 5 too. It's nice to win, but better is competing and challenging yourself against others - GM| PB: How would you describe your riding?
|We always have the 'One Life' crew and that's something me and the boys always say to make the most of life. I don't really live by mottoes; I go with the flow and see where it takes me, that's what it's about - GM| PB: What are your race rituals?
|Safe. I think I ride really safely and I try to be as smooth as possible. My father always taught me ride smooth in my motocross days... He'd say 'ride smooth; smooth is fast'. I found it hard these last couple of years to really push hard and ride right on the edge. I think there's more sections where you have to push in a way I haven't really been trained, so to speak. It's important to ride like that if you want to win these days, you have to go more than 100% to make the top three. It's changing and I think the sport's gone to that level. There was a time you could finish a section and have a bit of a breather before the next. Now you must attack straight into that next section and that's what I've found difficult maybe - GM| PB: Best and worst aspects of the job?
|My race rituals depend on the event. It might be what gloves I use, my shoes or what goggles. Other than that I guess I don't so much have rituals as a routine that I try to stick to every race. Sometimes I might deviate off it slightly and it doesn't make too much difference, but routines are really important to me, particularly the physical warm up before the gate - GM| PB: Travelling is naturally a big part of the racer's lifestyle. How many flights have you made in your career?
|The best aspects of the job is to be in an environment that's fun, doing what we love doing, travelling round the world, riding in these amazing places. The downside is you don't really get time in them. When we're somewhere riding it's all about racing and we don't ever see or ride anything else. It's like Rotorua in New Zealand, everyone always talks about the awesome riding there... I know the race track and that's it. If we could just spend more time in each place - GM| PB: All you successes have brought you your fair share of media and fan attention over the years. Do you enjoy the spotlight or would you rather take a quiet back-seat?
|These days I stay mostly in San Francisco so just to get to Europe is often 3 flights and I do that at least 4 times a year. My first full season was in 2000 after a few in '99 and I roughly travel 120,000 air miles per year, which is 5 times round the world. We could guess if we had a calculator - GM| PB: What do you feel is your greatest achievement?
|Being in the spotlight is not something I completely enjoy... I prefer to just get on with my own thing and no worry about it all. It's easier to understand in an environment like this when everything is based around cycling, but I find it can be tough when you're walking down the street in London and a guy comes to you and starts chatting and wants an autograph. It's a bit different and I'm still not totally comfortable with it. That's when you've kind of reached a bigger audience and that can be awkward and not what I ever wanted. In mountain biking everyone is always around eachother, there's no certain areas for people so that keeps all the riders relatively humble - GM|
|By far my greatest achievement was winning at home in South Africa, but I don't think it was as enjoyable as to win the World Champs in Leogang because there was so much pressure on that race. I actually didn't enjoy much of it at the time but the relief at the end was unreal. I won my first World Cup in Austria though, at Kaprun and that was pretty cool. Probably the most memorable was beating Nico in Mont St Anne to win the overall of 2001 - GM|
|I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping Greg and these top guys and working with them is also the best research and development anyone could do on a bike product. Greg and the guys are just a nice down to earth bunch really, but when you see all the fans going mad for them it becomes a bit surreal when you're just sitting at dinner with Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar and Josh Bryceland. I'm a fanboy myself really, although you can't let that show - Jason Marsh - Greg's mechanic|
|Greg's bike is all production really. Pretty much everything he races on you can buy. He is running some prototype wheels this week from ENVE. When the guys find out what works best it will be those that go into production. Greg likes his front end a little bit higher than Josh and Steve. He has a softer spring- a 400 at the back, while Steve is on a 500 and Josh a 450 I think. Greg also runs fairly low tire pressures compared to the other guys. He's on 26 on the front with 28 on the back and he goes tubeless because he's got a bit of finesse on the bike and he enjoys the extra traction it gives him. Apart from that he just has the wider Minnaar bar from Enve, probably because he spends a fair bit of time on a motocross bike and he's a tall chap on the limits of the XL frame. The Chris King Buzz Works headset really helps us make it fit his body well - Jason Marsh - Syndicate mechanic| PB: So much of your career has been spent on the podium... Do you view a certain period as your ‘career low’?
|I'm the team manager of course, but you know I'm old enough to be his mother and I do treat him like a son. I think I do everything short of wipe his ass hehe. Probably shouldn't put that! No but I do whatever I can in places where they can just save their energy. I make their dinners, do the timesheets, clean their clothes... everything so they don't have to think. They can just focus on the lines and the track. Greg's a really cool friend too. In between races we tend to find ourselves in really cool locations like Rome or wherever and that kind of thing so we have a lot of fun. It really is just a big family. The guys are like brothers, I'm the mum... Marshy's the dad! Me and the dad of course have differences how we think we should raise our children haha! - Kathy Sessler - Team Manager - Santa Cruz Syndicate| PB: Have you ever felt like quitting?
|I think I started in a low. You know I didn't think it was possible to go as fast as these guys, so it was so hard at first. I also had a shoulder that kept dislocating and wasn't able to fix. I knew that the Honda race team was coming to an end after the '07 season. I knew if I could just get a good result here, at Fort Bill at the World Champs I had a good shot of getting on another big team. I had my shoulder all strapped up. I ended up crashing over the bars in the woods, dislocating my shoulder again and breaking the scapula in the process. I still managed to ride into fourth. After that was kind of a low because I felt no one would remember fourth, the team was over and I knew I would need a major operation to get my shoulder fixed. It was a pretty low period for me. After that I signed for Santa Cruz so it kicked off again - GM| PB: 100 down, how many more races do you have in you?
|I only felt I might quit in the beginning. Once I started to get somewhere or thought I could, I didn't really have that feeling again - GM|PB: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
|For racing to be fun I've got to be competitive. There's no point hanging around taking an opportunity for someone else that could possibly be a podium. I wouldn't want to take that chance away from someone young coming up. As long as I'm still competitive and I've earned my place in the team I'll continue to race. There has to be a line drawn; I can't race forever... I have to look past racing at some point and where that will take me, who knows - GM|PB: Do you have any regrets?
|I'd like to still be in the bike industry because I love racing and watching racing. Leogang last year was the first World Cup I spectated and it was incredible to watch. We had such a great time even though I was injured, so I hope I'll still be in it because it's an incredible sport - GM|PB: What has been the best invention or development in DH during your career?
|I think I've got a lot of regrets, but you've got to keep moving forward. You're always going to have them from life in general, but from racing I would say 2001 when I did my shoulder and I never got it fixed until 2007, so it was a big struggle all those years. Once I had it fixed my results were back up the top. That's one thing I regret, but regrets are just part of life - GM|PB: What’s it like to see the new generations of racers coming through?
|I would think carbon. It's been a really big thing for downhill - GM|PB: Where is downhill headed and where would you like it to go?
|It's exciting watching them come up. And you've got to watch as well because they bring a whole new style to things. They see things slightly different, lines on the track a little different so if you don't have an eye out, you're gonna be off the back. I've kept going so long being able to adjust with the different competition that's coming through. That'll give you longevity in a sport. You can't get stuck in your ways, you have to adapt to everything - GM|PB: Are there people you feel you owe a lot of your successes to?
|Unfortunately and fortunately it's not in the riders' hands where it's heading, and I don't really know where it's headed. We've got a really good sport that's really popular with a lot of potential to go really big. We just need someone with the right vision to be able to carry that through. Maybe it needs an ex-rider that can envision it, but right now we are nowhere near hitting our full potential. I think if you look at the growth we're seeing now in downhill it can really be something for the future. We're focusing and worrying about all these other disciplines coming and going, but to me downhill is a piece of gold that just needs to be cleansed. Downhill has a great following and when you have that it's easier to take it to the masses, we just need organizing bodies to start to use it to their full potential, and then I think we'll see where we really can be - GM|There we are Greg; one hundred times across the line. How was it for you?
|There's so many people along the way. If it wasn't for Martin Whitely I would never have had the opportunity I did as a rider coming up. He managed to convince the UCI that I fall under the African development. No African rider had ever received a medal from the UCI. They managed to give me some funding to be able to travel round Europe when I was a junior. If that hadn't have happened I wouldn't have been allowed to excel and finally earn that medal. There's been my sponsors too. You know I've been with Oakley ever since I started racing and that's pretty impressive through all the good and bad times. I have to thank Rob Roskopp, for taking a chance with me when felt I wasn't quite the first choice, I wasn't a spring chicken anymore and was suffering with a severe shoulder problems. He gave me the 'second wind' I needed in my career. My trainer, Stefan Gerard, I have been with since 2003, so I owe a lot to him and my family have supported me incredibly. My parents remortgaged their house to let me go overseas and race, so there's a lot of people behind the scenes, hardly spoken about that put so much effort in. Jason Marsh and Kathy Sessler are doing amazing work, I'm pretty busy off the bike as well so to have them working out the schedules and my bikes is the only way I can still be competitive while busy with all the other projects - GM|Steve Peat, can you sum up Greg for us in 5 words?
|I had a really cool run, I pushed hard and felt good. It took a bit to get in, with some sketchy bits in the top corners. I pedaled my way through the woods a bit just to get back up to speed after I slid out a bit and I guess I lost some time on the bottom, not usual for me, but there you go it is what it is. All in all it was a good race eh... Seventh is never the position I'm really after, but it was a tough week: I felt like I was battling to get the speed so I'm happy with the result - GM|PB: What advice can you give to the keen young racer wanting to be the next Greg Minnaar?
|Great friend and fast b*stard! - SP|PB: Thanks for all the insight this weekend, Greg and well... the 14 years of incredible racing we have enjoyed!
|I can only look back at myself starting off and for me there was this point where I was actually going to give up. It wasn't only thinking I couldn't compete with the top guys; I thought I could never be away from South Africa so long. Then when you see the results and you're way off the time... I mean sometimes people say 'never give up', but that's something that I've actually experienced. Everything is possible. Everyone has the potential you just have to find the way to tap into it - GM|
|Thank you Pinkbike! - GM|
By Nathan Hughes