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WHEELS IN THE DIRT! World Cup Downhill Action from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

<b>Greg Minnaar was fastest in timed training today with a 32-pound Santa Cruz V-10c. </b> -Sven Martin

<b>The only other man to win here other than Greg Minnaar is Aaron Gwin. Looking on form and hauling on his Specialized Enduro EVO 27.5.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Timed practice and Gwin set the fastest first split by quite a margin of 2.3-seconds on what started off as a cruiser run.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>"It's like Supercross whoops..."</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Mitch Oops-a-lot-o.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Noel Neiderburger trying to one-up Mitch.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>There are two ways to do this blind, rock-laden step-down fadeaway. Pre-hop and pump on the right like Marc Beaumont, or buck the middle to sketchy off-camber, root-littered right hander. Neither are easy.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Brendan Fairclough has been hammering some of the tech sections today. Here we catch a glimpse of him looking #enduro. Maybe some SPDs are required to help keep those feet on the pedals!</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Gee's GoPro has built-in flash for all the darker woods sections.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Not all had such fortune for their first runs. Here Mick goes for a new super tuck tactic.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Last time we saw a telemetry device on someone's bike they went on to win a World Cup (Remi Thirion, Andorra). Loic Bruni is quite capable here.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>You may have seen the video of Loic Bruni taking a spectacular front flip off this compression. Here Miriam Nicole takes the more considered approach.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Some new, loose, cut-up, off-camber turns that Andrew Neethling had fun blowing up today.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>First run down before the lap traffic build up and Josh Brycleand was already comfortable enough to be blasting the new rock sections.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>When you see and hear Josh Bryceland having fun on a track, whooping, popping and giggling he usually ends up on the podium. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case this weekend.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Danny Hart up top. It's no longer two small hops but rather a staggered rock terrace requiring precision.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Luca Shaw is racing here in South Africa while brother Walker Shaw attends Sea Otter.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Second year Junior and second year at PMB for Luca Shaw who was breezing the huge tabletops and finding his rhythm.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Ragot went fastest in timed practice today. Following on from her win in Leogang, she's proved that Rachel isn't the dominant force she seemed.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Blenki boosting where others are staying low into the infamous gully; the fastest part of the track.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Troy on a hybrid bike that just might prove to be perfect for this track. A new unreleased Specialized Enduro 27.5 with shortened BoXXer. Troy is literally floating above the track, sucking up the bumps and pushing on the pumps, generating speed, coasting all the way from here through all the jumps.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Having placed strongly in her first Elite year and free from injury, Manon Carpenter made a strong start in practice and looks competitive for the top step.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Big healing vibes from Vital MTB to Innes Graham, one of the top Juniors, who suffered a broken ankle in practice today.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Remi Remi Remi. With English speaking Cam Cole on the team, Remi's brushing up on his linguistics, so you can expect more audio soundbites from one of Vital's favorite pinners.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Team manager and pinner extreme, Cous Cous, spends another day juggling dual responsibilities on the new Polygon ride.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>While one guy needed to man-up clutching his leg after a slow low side, Casey Brown gives it full gas, first run, showing everyone how it's done.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Meanwhile Pekoll opts for the gas-to-flat option. We saw him have a big crash today in practice. We can assure you the point at which he hit the track is still ok.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Four eyed Peaty is kind of creepy. Text book style and technique as always from Sir Peaty.</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Rumor has it that Gwin breaking the 70km/h mark at the speed trap sparked a fire in the surrounding woods.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>A new team this year for Morgan Charre, finding her place on an Evil steed.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>The sun has set and the Bergamont factory team are taking insightful discussions as to which knobs to cut to reduce precious rolling resistance.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>Mick Hannah's 31.6-pound 27.5 Polygon Alloy DH bike</b> -Sven Martin

<b>Want to ride a bike with a broken hand? You're going to need some extra padding!</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>After a successful Junior season with a few World Cup wins, Mike Jones is battling a broken hand here at the first round. That didn't hold him back from showing his CRC team mates, past and present, how it's done!</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>With 30-degree heat, the track here is super dusty. Matt Walker tweaks it out on one of the fastest straights on the track.</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>It's 7:15 and time to catch up with yesterday's slideshow. This is the only chance we get before 7pm in the evening and it's always special seeing how things come together (many thanks to spomer!)</b> -Duncan Philpott

<b>The sun sets on the first day of the 2014 UCI World Cup season. See you tomorrow for qualifying action!</b> -Sven Martin

The first downhill practice session of the 2014 UCI World Cup concluded in Pietermaritzburg with no shortage of drama and carnage. The new rockgarden is not forgiving and caught riders off guard. Greg Minnaar went fastest in timed training with Aaron Gwin in 2nd place. While not much is put into the timed training results, we get a barometer of how the track is running. It's dry, fast and taking no prisoners.

Enjoy the fantastic action and insight by Sven Martin and Duncan Philpott.

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