Words by Richard Cunynghame
The points start collecting from the very first beep of the season at round one. The pressure of their presence sits on riders’ shoulders all year. The ticking clock may stop after each run but the abacus never stops, it only pauses between races to coil the riders springs even tighter. Until eventually the chips are counted at the final round.
Greg Minnaar knows they don’t accumulate themselves, “It’s hard, the sport’s really tough, to keep coming back, stay uninjured and to be consistent.” The last two seasons his count has been short and left him in second, missing the series by an expansive 465 points in 2011, he’s closed that down to only 98 points at the end of 2012’s seven events.
84 points behind Greg in 2011, Gee Atherton has closed in too. 2012 saw his count stop just 39 shy of second place in the series, “You have to review what you’ve done. The years you don’t win are the ones you learn the most from. I’ve learnt a lot this year and I’ll be putting that into place for next season.”
Riders travel from one side of the planet to the other, surroundings change from nation to nation but the battle for every single point remains constant and the frustration of them slipping through a riders fingers is evident, “I need to sort something out,” says Greg, “I don’t think there’s much I can change. I think what I’m doing works, I need to just figure out those race runs a little more, I didn’t really challenge Gwinny as much as I’d like.”
And that’s the man who’s had his race runs sorted out, Aaron Gwin. Well mostly – there’s always imperfections in a masterpiece. There have been lows as well as the highs in Aaron’s last two seasons and he’s aware all the other riders will pounce at any chance. Even when he knows he’s done a lot, he’s never quite sure if it’s enough right down to the event when the series is clinched, “All weekend the pressure of the overall was playing on my mind. As usual Greg kept it close, as he always does, rider after rider came down and I kinda didn’t want to watch. For me the overall is the number one goal. It worked out all right, so I was stoked.”
Aided by the fact the riders never duel it out to each others faces, there are connections through common sponsors and friendships off the track. It is more the terrain that is overcome. Despite that, the fight will only ever become more intense. The margins are minimal and the challengers strong. That’s what will entice those that won to dig deeper and those that lost out to search for that perfection. When looked at in hindsight, a perfect season is so completely unattainable. The challenge stays true to the terrain, uneven, ever-changing and exhilarating. Every rider’s campaign will contain imperfections, it’s just a matter of how they minimise them and how few they can get away with.