The Flow – Val di Sole World Cup Wrap-Up

Everything was set for an epic showdown at Val di Sole in Italy on the weekend – two greats against the clock on a gnarly track with the overall title hanging on one run – then things got ugly for Greg.


Myles Kelsey |

Everything was set for an epic showdown at Val di Sole in Italy on the weekend – two greats against the clock on a gnarly track with the overall title hanging on one run – then things got ugly for Greg. 

Words By Myles Kelsey // Photographs by Kathy Sessler

Greg crosses the line with an ugly-looking V10 in tow
Greg crosses the line with an ugly-looking V10 in tow

Lets wind the clock back a little here for some background. Greg has been racing DH world cups for an astonishing 20 years now (5 years is considered a good career). Think about that for a little bit – have a sip of coffee, pause again and consider the inherent danger in this sport which impacts an athlete’s longevity. Pause. Now read further.

What’s more, he is in the form of his life right now. He has perfected his craft in that he is able to perform on all varieties of tracks that the contemporary World Cup circuit throws at him – the steepest of steep, the long, the short, the gnarliest and the more pedally ones. He is on top of his game – still – despite the evolution of the sport.

Greg with his parents before heading up to the start
Greg with his parents before heading up to the start

I haven’t done the exact math here but he likely has more World Cup & World Champ podiums (I think 85 is the number) than the combined total of all other South African mountain bikers – ever. Go back two decades and add them all up: male & female, include marathons, XCO, masters too, and Minn will have more podiums. How’s them apples?

People of South Africa you should note two things here… Number 1: Greg is more than a good bike rider, he is going to be one of the all-time greats that our kids will talk about for many, many decades to come. Number 2: His reign and career is happening now so soak it up and enjoy it because what he has and what he is, is rare and isn’t easily built.

Greg drops into the finish to complete his quali run
Greg drops into the finish to complete his quali run

 

The guy is the Albert Einstein of DH, a Rossi, a Merckx, a McEnroe.

Ok so with that context – back to Val di Sole. Going into the last round with the points lead the aforementioned ‘ugly’ started with a scorpion-style dirt slam (a big crash) in practice, which flipped his bike sideways into a track-side pole and subsequently split his V10’s frame in two pieces. His bike was literally in two halves with less than an hour before his qualifying run. A super fast bike rebuild ensued before rushing to the top of the hill for his start. He then calmed himself and settled into a more-than-solid quali run – going 2nd and keeping the title hopes alive. Then, on Saturday in the finals it got really ugly as the blown-out Italian track shattered his title chances with a rear flat. A flat! FML! After overcoming everything Friday threw at him and clocking great upper splits in his race run it all ended in a flat. Heart-wrenching stuff indeed.

All that off-season training, the pre-season training, the travel, the diet, the physio, the bike testing, product development, the track walks, the line analysis and the mental preparation which goes with that level of riding undone by a flat. That’s pure ugly for Greg, his family who were trackside, the team and his supporters. We are gutted for him.

The damaged goods after the bike flipped sideways into a pole on the side of the track
The damaged goods after the bike flipped sideways into a pole on the side of the track

 

Some solace can be found when analysing the splits as Greg certainly had the speed required…

The race was won by another sterling effort by Californian Aaron Gwin who did not hold back. Gwin now equals the record of the most World Cup overall titles and is surely beaming with confidence for a shot at the rainbow stripes – something which his palmarès is sorely missing.

They are all off to Aussie for the final race of the year, World Champs in two weeks time. It should be another cracker, hopefully less ugly.

Your 2017 overall mens podium goes like this. Gwin, Brosnan, Minnaar, Bruni and Vergier
Your 2017 overall mens podium goes like this. Gwin, Brosnan, Minnaar, Bruni and Vergier

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Myles Kelsey is a former masters downhill World Champ. When he’s not giving advice to those wanting to better their skills, you’ll find him shredding the trails of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs – that’s if he’s not competing overseas. He knows he’s stuff so we suggest you listen to him.

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