Former title-holders Gee Atherton and Greg Minnaar aren't ready to settle for second best in 2013
In 2010, we saw the mother of all showdowns between the two riders as they pushed each other hard in every round and ended the season with a nail-biting finale in which Atherton narrowly took the title.
Then came the arrival of US rider Aaron Gwin. Nine wins in the last two years have secured him two consecutive titles. But the names below his in those two seasons have remained the same – with Greg taking second and Gee very close behind. That's just how the 2012 standings looked after the final race in Hafjell.
A lot of riders would be happy with a second place finish, but it only leaves Greg wanting more. “This season started off well in South Africa, but I wanted to be a little more of a challenger than I was. That’s how it goes. It’s been like that for the last two seasons, but hopefully things will change next season."
"We all need to do something to try and challenge Gwin more," added the South African. "The only thing I can really be grateful about is that I’m a little ahead of the others. But that’s not where I want to be, I want to challenge for the wins, I don’t want to challenge for second and third. Gee and I have definitely been consistent but we’ve also had those downfall races, whereas Gwinny hasn’t had those.”
Gee Atherton agrees about the task in hand: “Any rider that gets on a roll and gets into a series lead and starts winning World Cups is very hard to beat because they’ve got confidence and they carry their momentum through the season."
"We’ve seen it with a few people – once they find their form and find their speed, a good rider can take that to any track, in any condition, and repeat it week after week. Gwin’s obviously there and he’s on form but it’s up to us to find his weaknesses and make it a battle next year."
"The media has given him this aura, like he's that guy who doesn’t have weaknesses and is unbeatable," adds Britain's Gee. "But as an athlete and competitor of his, I don’t go in for that rubbish. No rider is unbeatable and I don’t look at him any differently to how I look at any other rider.”
Greg sees it the same: “I think confidence plays a big part. He’s definitely riding well and he’s shown he can win back-to-back, which is probably one of the hardest things to do. It’s hard to keep coming back, stay free of injury and remain consistent. I’m just motivated to race. I enjoy it, I love it. I come back every season to try and compete and challenge for those wins, that’s what brings me back each year, so I’m not worried about motivation.”
Any championship featuring two fierce competitors like Gee and Greg is always going to be a thrilling ride and so we’re set for a storming 2013.
Said Gee about next year: “I felt strong at the start of the season but breaking my leg put me on the back foot. My fitness was off, my bike handling was off, and all year I’ve been chasing and making the best of a bad job. This winter’s going to give me a chance to get fit, get strong and come back better next year.”
You'd better watch this space, then.