South Africa’s mountain bike downhill hero Greg Minnaar, who hails from Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, proudly stood on the top step of the podium to claim his second World Championship title in nine years at the 2012 UCI Downhill World Championships in Leogang, Austria on Sunday.

Not only was this Minnaar’s second World Championship title and 8th World Championship medal, but Minnaar also writes history as taking the first carbon bike to downhill gold – his Santa Cruz V10.

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Photo: Sven Martin / Kathy Sessler / Syndicate

“It’s been 9 years, in 2003… So flip man, I am over the moon,” said an ecstatic Minnaar. “I’ve come so close to this on many occasions, and came into this race thinking that I am trying too hard to go for it. Although I have got great results and a lot of silver and bronzes, I needed to just get back to the basics of why we race, and that is to have fun.

“And I’ve got to be honest, that final was a lot of pain and intense concentration but when you get to the bottom of a run like that you’re just stoked you’re alive really.”

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Photo: Sven Martin / Kathy Sessler / Syndicate

Sunny skies greeted the riders on race day, after they had set their timed qualifying runs in the worst possible muddy conditions on the track the day before. During Minnaar’s run, the most consistent podium finisher in downhill racing was consistently half a second up at the first and second splits, and he did not disappoint, crossing the line in gold medal position and sending the crowd into hysteria!

When main rival, American Aaron Gwin suffered mechanical issues, Greg was the first to offer his commiserations before graciously accepting the World Title.

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Photo: Sven Martin / Kathy Sessler / Syndicate

“This was a team effort,” said an elated Minnaar afterwards. “From Marshy (mechanic) to Roskopp (team owner) and everyone in between, thank you! I’m honoured you have supported me on climbing to the top of the podium and receiving Gold on behalf of you all. I'll put that jersey on with pride next week in Norway, and in 2013 I will do my best to reverse the curse of the World Champion’s Jersey!”

“The podium was a tearjerker!” exclaimed Team Manager Kathy Sessler. “Greg was beaming, and tears welled up in his eyes. He proudly accepted his medal and while the South African national anthem played tears rolled down my face.”

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Photo: Sven Martin / Kathy Sessler / Syndicate

Cycling South Africa’s Director of MTB Brett Coates said: “Greg, huge congratulations from all at Cycling South Africa as well as the whole of the South African cycling public! You have proven once again, to be an inspiration to all our athletes and your determination and commitment can only be commended, a fantastic achievement, well done!”

Greg Minnaar races in his new rainbow stripes at the last round of the World Cup in Norway on the 16th September, and attends Interbike in Las Vegas the following week to present his history-making Santa Cruz V10 carbon to the public.

Minnaar will experience a rare opportunity in 2013 when he will defend the World Championship jersey on home soil, in his hometown, in Pietermaritzburg, whilst attempting to achieve his 3rd World Championship title of his illustrious career.

Watch the full story as it unfolded here.