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Johannesburg – Downhill mountainbike champion Greg Minnaar hopes to defend his global title on home soil this year and also aims to challenge for victory in every leg of the 2013 Mountainbike World Cup.
“I want to win my third world title,” Minnaar said at the weekend, as he continued preparations for the new season.
“I have a long season ahead and winning at home is my focus for the year.
“Winning at home is any sportsman's dream, and it's not often that you race championships at home, so I really want to do my best.”
South Africa will host the Mountainbike and Trials World Championships for the first time when the 2013 edition is held in Pietermaritzburg in August.
Minnaar, 31, had a stellar season in 2012. The Santa Cruz Syndicate rider finished second overall in the Mountainbike World Cup, behind American rider Aaron Gwin, after the South African bagged his 16th cup victory of his career in the opening round of the global series in Pietermaritzburg.
In September, he claimed his second World Championships title in Leogang, Austria.
“The world champs is special, especially in downhill, where you have five minutes to give It your best, so for me that was an ecstatic win,” Minnaar said.
“It was great to come out on top and it will be great to do it again this year, but I know it will take some hard work.
He faces a strong challenge from other likely title contenders, including current champ Gwin, British rider Gee Atherton and Canadian Steve Smith.
“It will be tough competition with Gwin. He won the World Cup last year and has won in Pietermaritzburg before,” Minnaar said.
“Australia's Nick Hannah is a bit of a dark horse, and on a track like Pietermaritzburg he's really strong.”
Putting aside his aspirations for the 2013 campaign, Minnaar paid credit to countryman Burry Stander, a two-time Olympic cross country rider, who was killed in a crash while training in Port Shepstone last week.
“It's sad. I've known him for a long time, and the tragedy of how his life ended... He had a lot of unfinished business and had a bright future in road cycling.”
Minnaar joined the throngs of South African cyclists calling for improved safety measures on the roads.
“Cycling on the road is very dangerous and we train on the roads every morning,” he said.
“We are the weakest vehicle on the road and government needs to enforce all the driving laws.”
Minnaar started training for the new season in November, and confirmed he had recovered well from the shoulder operation he had in December.
In his first race of the year, he will compete in the gravity enduro event at the Cycle Fest, which starts in Pietermaritzburg on Friday. – Sapa