Team Clif Bar sponsored Santa Cruz Syndicate was firing on all cylinders this weekend as Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar and Josh Bryceland all finished in the top ten and took top team honors at the UCI World Cup season opener in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. With his hometown oneLife crew and family watching, Minnaar dug deep and pedaled his brains out to attempt a repeat of his win in PMB two years ago, but Aaron Gwin just edged him out for the win by a quarter of a second. After warming the hotseat for 25 riders, Peat had a big grin on his face when his time of 4:15.44 held up for 5th place, finally back on the podium and making this his 51st downhill world cup podium. Minnaar's 2nd place was his 49 downhill world cup podium, making 100 total appearances for these two! Bryceland showed that his winter training has gone well with a 10th place finish on this physically demanding course and raced clipped in for the first time.
Minnaar was grateful to have so many hometown fans cheering him on and says, "I made a couple of silly mistakes early on and was trying to catch up all the way. I can't thank the crowd enough. Their support was unbelievable and made a huge difference to me on the day. I am sorry for the second place." Peat had been battling a cold and chest infection the entire trip and after placing 33rd in the qualifier he knew resting would be the best plan for the final. He was so pleased to finish on the podium and it was great to see that smile of satisfaction on his face again. He says, "I'm over the moon with a podium finish! I didn't feel my best and had to save myself for that final run. I managed to put down a good run and my Carbon V-10 was working awesome thanks to Rick Bobby, Hatrick and Travis. We had a good weekend and took the team overall." The World Cup season opener was just the icing on the cake that topped off two weeks of amazing activities with the True Collection athletes and locations. Joining the Syndicate was True Athlete Cedric Gracia and pro-freeskier, BASE jumper and stuntman, JT Holmes. The adventures demonstrated clearly the concept of True Collection, which takes people to breathtaking locations to participate in activities with top athletes around the world for a once in a lifetime experience. Before the adventures began Syndicate work was at hand with action photoshoots. Sharpshooter Gary "Flipper" Perkin found a few windows of opportunity to grab some sunny shots between rain and hail storms while Greg Steve and Josh were bonding with their new Carbon V-10's. I've heard the term "Africa hot", but this was "Africa cold!" I'd never seen hail the size of golf balls before and South Africa was the last place I expected it. The first holiday excursion we took was a dolphin watching boat ride from Durban. Not one of us was disappointed not to see any dolphins as we were happy jetting across the tops of the swells out on the balmy Indian Ocean at 80 kph catching air from peak to peak. We stopped in the shallow waters above a shipwreck and plunged ourselves into the aqua blue water to take an underwater peek at it. The next day we visited Thembini School which True Collection is raising funds for. It was a very touching afternoon seeing the smiles on these kids faces, many of them not even aware that they might be HIV positive. The athletes presented them with books and pencils, but the athletes were the beneficiaries receiving the gift of the innocent smiles and high fives from the kids who were curiously fascinated by these people from a different walk of life. Saturday was a meet and greet social ride at Holla Trails where the guys took a group of riders out for an hour cross country loop out in the surrounding hills and fields from the clubhouse at Holla Trails. Some of the youngsters were especially excited to get the autographs of their heroes. Afterwards we went back the True Collections house in Zimbali for a dinner after a frolic on the beach in storm surf and rain. Josh was particularly funny on the boogie board with his funny antics and gangly limbs and in the end we all were pummeled heavily in the rough surf, laughing the entire time. It was a great team experience where there are no boundaries between being a "grown up" and your "inner child". Running back up to find shelter in the rain the drenched group found ourselves amongst a group of female socialites having a birthday celebration (each of them hoping that this was a new approach to a male stripper group arriving at a party), as they vocally showed their preference for their favorites of the group! Our next adventure was at the Lion's Valley Game Reserve. JT Holmes summarized the Lion's Valley game reserve best: "Enter a game reserve in Africa and Disney's The Jungle Book. Rhinos, lions, giraffe, zebra... you name it. At Lion's Valley lodge, we even had an elephant dip his trunk into the pool for a refreshing late night drink. We stood by on the pool deck, encouraged by our guide to obey rules. He gently reminded us "this is not a zoo, eh." ....as Greg inched ever so close for a photo to be snapped of he and the massive creature." Lot's of bonding, once in a lifetime experiences and late night fireside chats were to be had, weaving the thread of the Syndicate further tighter amongst us and stitching in new friends along the way through this rich fabric of life. Needing to get back to PMB for track walk and registration our fearless leader, Rob Roskopp, throws us a curve ball: we must go skydiving with JT as he needs to do some test jumps to get his pro rating in South Africa before he can jump into the downhill finish arena on Sunday. Everyone was eager, but curiously Greg had a lot of work to do at home...For those of us who had never thought they would ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane the experience was breathtaking, and another example of what someone can do on a True Collection adventure. Learn more here: http://true-collection.com/ TOP TEN MEN'S DOWNHILL RESULTS: 1st: Aaron Gwin 4:08.63 2nd: GREG MINNAAR (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 4:08.875 3rd: Gee Atherton 4:10.87 4th: Fabien Barel 4:12.88 5th: STEVE PEAT (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 4:15.44 6th: Steve Smith 4:15.56 7th: Marc Beaumont 4:15.87 8th: Sam Hill 4:16.03 9th: Nick Beer: 4:16.59 10th: JOSH BRYCELAND (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 4:16.91 MEN'S OVERALL STANDINGS: 1ST: Aaron Gwin 218 points 2nd: GREG MINNAAR (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 200 3rd: Gee Atherton 162 4th: Fabien Barel 145 5th: STEVE PEAT (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 110 6th: Steve Smith 104 7th: Sam Hill 102 8th: Nick Beer 94 89h: Julien Camellni 92 10th: Marc Beaumont 90 12TH: JOSH BRYCELAND (SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE) 86
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- B Cole