South African National Elite Men’s Downhill Champion, Stefan Garlicki (Investec) said: “The vibe here at the moment is great, everyone’s excited and the weather is good for the time being.”

The South African Downhill Team prepares ahead of the 2016 UCI MTB World Downhill Championships in Val di Sole, Italy from 6-11 September. Photo: Struan McMaster

The Capetonian mentioned that there is rain predicted for the weekend, but is holding thumbs that it blows over. “If there’s one track that you don’t want it to rain on, it would be this one,” he said. The Val di Sole track is steep, with many roots and rocks, which will prove to be a challenge for the riders in the wetter weather.

Garlicki is feeling excited ahead of his race, and has shaken his feelings of disappointment from failing to qualify for the Finals at the World Cup in Andorra at the weekend. “There were a few issues on my bike which I’ve managed to sort out and I am ready for the week, so we’ll see,” he added.

Although Garlicki mentioned that the team felt a lot smaller because there are no cross-country riders (as events are split this year), he did add that he enjoyed the fact that the events around the weekend will be purely focused on the discipline of Downhill.

He also didn’t hide away from the fact that the course won’t be an easy one. “I feel that, for our Junior riders, this will probably be the toughest track that they’ve raced. It’s definitely the most technical on the World Cup circuit” he said.

Junior rider, Coenie Slabbert (Giant South Africa) said: “At the moment I am really excited. It is a life long dream come true and a really big honour. I’ve seen the track, and it is really rough, but it looks like a lot of fun.”

Cullen McMaster, who also forms part of the Junior team along with Slabbert and Christopher Philogene (Lapierre South Africa), is enjoying his time in Italy so far, and says that the atmosphere is great. “Jokes are flying around, and everything is going really well,” he added.

When speaking about the track, McMaster said: “I walked a bit of the track yesterday and its looking top notch. I’m keen to start riding. Today is bike building and bike prep. I’m ready for the weekend.”

The Elite team this year also includes three-time World Champion, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who recently added to his World Cup Podium tally when he claimed the silver medal at the UCI Downhill World Cup in Andorra at the weekend.

Jonathan Philogene (Lapierre) as well as Johann Potgieter also form part of the Elite Team.

This year’s team is managed by South African Downhill enthusiast Sam Bull, who sits out of competing due to injury. Bull had an unfortunate accident at the African Continental Downhill Championships in Lesotho early this year, resulting in him having a full ACL reconstruction, an MCL re-anchor and meniscal repair to his right knee. “I still wanted to be involved with the Downhill scene and remain current,” he added.

After competing in World Championships over the past few years, Bull felt that he could apply his experiences and lessons learnt to some of those in the team. “I felt like I could help out a lot and provide for the riders what they require in order to perform at their best. I want to help with the minor details that make the world of difference,” he said.

Bull is eager to help the Junior riders with bike set-up, line selection and mental approach to the weekend. “It’s a course I know quite well having ridden it for the past few years. I’m hoping to help bring out the best in the riders, and although I would have loved to have been riding, for now my goal is to provide the best possible platform for the athletes to achieve,” he said.

For more information about the 2016 UCI Downhill World Championships, click here: