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The season is officially underway! Knowing that the South Africa downhill course was one of the most physically demanding races they'll do all year, riders worked hard during the off season in preparation for the opening round of the 2012 UCI World Cup Series. Despite looming rain clouds and a heavy downpour yesterday evening, the course remained dry for the duration of the race. Following a week of build up and a winter's worth of intensive training and preparation, here's a look at how the times shook down.

If you missed the live broadcast, the replay is available here.

Men's Highlights and Results:

When the top 30 qualifiers took to the course, Brendan Fairclough was sitting in the hot seat. The lead would quickly change, however, as Fabien Cousine, Neko Mulally, and Julien Camellini soon took their turns in spotlight. When Bryn Atkinson came down he was fastest at the top split, but lost a bit of time during the pedally section of the course. Sam Hill mixed things up a bit on his flat pedals when he came down the hill in 2nd and would end up 11th on the day. Danny Hart will have his work cut out for him this season after an unfortunate slide out near the top of the course that set him clear back into 41st. This race marked Steve Peat's 100th World Cup race, and at just 38 years young he came down the hill in 5th place but was pushed back into 15th when all was said and done.

With just 10 riders to go, Camellini was still in the lead, but hometown hero Andrew Neethling was fueled by loud cheers and busted into the hot seat by nearly a full second. Jared Graves was the next to take the lead and one of the strongest riders in the grueling mid-section of the track. It's interesting to note that Graves opted for the aluminum version of his Yeti downhill bike for the finals. 

Just before the top 5 qualifiers started, Sick Mick Hannah lit the course on fire coming down into the lead by 5 seconds! Gee Atherton was comparatively slow at the top split, but made some impressive gains near the bottom of the course and came down just behind Hannah. Steve Smith also shined at the bottom but was unable to crack the pace set by Hannah. Then came Aaron Gwin, who was able to slide into the lead by just a few tenths of a second. With just one rider left to go, all eyes were on South Africa's most successful downhiller, Greg Minnaar. After a sixth place top split, Minnaar hit the turbo button, giving it everything he had. The crowd went absolutely bonkers when he crossed the finish line with the fastest time of the day, and Minnaar was immediately swarmed by friends and family.

Minnaar now has 16 World Cup wins and 53 podiums under his belt. He'll also have the number one plate when the series resumes at Val di Sole on June 3rd. - Photo by Gary Perkin

Rank Name UCI Code Team Result
1 MINNAAR Greg RSA19811113 SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE 3:57.980
2 GWIN Aaron USA19871224 TREK WORLD RACING +0.632
3 HANNAH Michael AUS19831121 HUTCHINSON UNITED RIDE +0.994
4 ATHERTON Gee GBR19850226 GT FACTORY RACING +1.303
5 SMITH Steve CAN19891125 DEVINCI GLOBAL RACING +4.384
6 GRAVES Jared AUS19821216 YETI FOX SHOX FACTORY RACE TEAM +4.436
7 NEETHLING Andrew RSA19840805 GIANT FACTORY OFF-ROAD TEAM +4.800
8 BROSNAN Troy AUS19930713 MONSTER ENERGY-SPECIALIZED +5.017
9 CAMELLINI Julien FRA19840107 +5.604
10 GRACIA Cédric FRA19780323 CG RACING BRIGADE +5.674
11 HILL Samuel AUS19850721 MONSTER ENERGY-SPECIALIZED +5.836
12 BEER Nick SUI19870917 DEVINCI GLOBAL RACING +5.894
13 GIORDANENGO Aurélien FRA19880422 TOPCYCLE BY TREK +6.064
14 MULALLY Neko USA19930219 TREK WORLD RACING +6.327
15 PEAT Steve GBR19740617 SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE +7.670
16 COUSINIE Fabien FRA19860814 HUTCHINSON UNITED RIDE +7.674
17 LEOV Justin NZL19841020 TREK WORLD RACING +8.579
18 BEAUMONT Marc GBR19840925 GT FACTORY RACING +8.874
19 MACDONALD Brook NZL19911125 MS MONDRAKER TEAM +9.036
20 FAIRCLOUGH Brendan GBR19880110 SCOTT11 +9.212
21 BRYCELAND Josh GBR19900323 SANTA CRUZ SYNDICATE +9.396
22 THIRION Rémi FRA19900423 LABYRINTH SHIMANO RACING TEAM +10.307
23 RUFFIN Thibaut FRA19841030 COMMENCAL / RIDING ADDICTION +10.412
24 ATKINSON Bryn AUS19821209 TEAM NORCO INTERNATIONAL +10.657
25 SPAGNOLO Damien FRA19850428 MS MONDRAKER TEAM +10.938
26 BRUNI Loic° FRA19940513 LAPIERRE INTERNATIONAL +11.038
27 BURTON Oliver GBR19890712 +11.178
28 WALLNER Robin SWE19880704 TEAM ARE BIKEPARK BY W-RACING +11.418
29 FISCHBACH Johannes GER19880304 GHOST FACTORY RACING TEAM +11.881
30 DELFS Mitchell AUS19890725 KONA +11.886
31 RUDE JR Richard° USA19950101 YETI FOX SHOX FACTORY RACE TEAM +12.047
32 GEORGES Pierre Charles FRA19860206 TEAM LAC BLANC / SOLID / BATIBOIS ALSACE +12.386
33 POTGIETER Johann RSA19870106 +12.472
34 KLAUSMANN Marcus GER19770808 GHOST FACTORY RACING TEAM +12.533
35 SUDING Lorenzo ITA19860315 PILA-BLACK ARROWS-MTB HERIN SCHOOL ASD +12.759
36 RIFFLE Duncan USA19861029 DIRT NORCO RACE TEAM +13.211
37 LEIVSSON Isak NOR19931017 +13.491
38 STROBEL Luke USA19860624 +13.584
39 WILLIAMSON Greg GBR19920608 +14.492
40 BRANNIGAN George NZL19920409 DEVINCI GLOBAL RACING +14.515
41 HART Danny GBR19910920 GIANT FACTORY OFF-ROAD TEAM +14.616
42 SMITH Joseph GBR19900704 CHAIN REACTION CYCLES.COM / NUKEPROOF +14.844
43 KEENE Curtis USA19791121 SPECIALIZED RACING - USA GRAVITY +15.038
44 ROPELATO Mitch USA19920303 SPECIALIZED RACING - USA GRAVITY +15.072
45 SIMMONDS Matthew GBR19870520 CHAIN REACTION CYCLES.COM / NUKEPROOF +15.105
46 THOMAS Richard GBR19880512 +15.358
47 KERR Bernard GBR19910216 +15.742
48 BENTLEY Timothy RSA19920723 HUTCHINSON UNITED RIDE +15.914
49 NEETHLING Jonty RSA19860717 +16.222
50 MOLLOY Harry GBR19910530 MADISON SARACEN DOWNHILL TEAM +16.312
51 JACKSON Eliot USA19900619 YETI FOX SHOX FACTORY RACE TEAM +16.656
52 PASCAL Mickael FRA19791011 CK RACING SANTACRUZ +16.657
53 BOND Alex GBR19890505 CHAIN REACTION CYCLES.COM / NUKEPROOF +16.732
54 GARLICKI Stefan RSA19900912 +16.838
55 THOME Patrick FRA19911020 LAPIERRE INTERNATIONAL +16.912
56 BRAITHWAITE Thomas GBR19841228 +17.154
57 POMBO Emanuel POR19870616 +18.060
58 BLENKINSOP Samuel NZL19881028 LAPIERRE INTERNATIONAL +18.106
59 PEYER Lars SUI19880816 SC-INTENSE +18.447
60 HARNSTROM Oscar SWE19900420 PILA-BLACK ARROWS-MTB HERIN SCHOOL ASD +18.649
61 PANDUR Ziga SLO19910117 UNIOR TOOLS TEAM +18.775
62 FEARON Connor° AUS19940119 KONA +19.178
63 BINGGELI Logan USA19890827 +20.070
64 WALLNER Niklas SWE19900519 TEAM ARE BIKEPARK BY W-RACING +20.132
65 LAMB Fergus GBR19850916 +20.875
66 HEATH Harry GBR19910805 UNIOR TOOLS TEAM +20.989
67 RUTAR Nejc SLO19890427 UNIOR TOOLS TEAM +21.552
68 MAY Ludovic SUI19890403 +21.594
69 READING Jack GBR19881210 +21.938
70 HERRMANN Tommy GER19891226 +22.220
71 CAUVIN Guillaume° FRA19940521 HUTCHINSON UNITED RIDE +22.224
72 VAUH Miran SLO19821104 +22.868
73 WEBER Lutz SUI19921204 +23.110
74 ODENDAAL Tiaan° RSA19941106 +24.677
75 JONES Jonathan° GBR19940813 +24.801
76 SCOTT Mark GBR19930511 +25.629
77 AIELLO Kevin USA19910412 +27.285
78 SHERIDAN Dan° IRL19940517 +27.934
79 HAUGLAND Kristoffer NOR19911009 +27.985
80 PEKOLL Markus AUT19871013 MS MONDRAKER TEAM +28.830
JOHANSEN Zakarias Blom NOR19921125 DNF1


Women's Highlights and Results:

With Rachel Atherton, Floriane Pugin, and Sabrina Jonnier all out due to injuries, the women's race was anyone's game. Recent 4X crossover Anita Molcik set the pace early on, but Manon Carpenter soon threw down the gauntlet. Carpenter had some really good split times during qualifiers and was able to put together an impressive 2nd place run today. First place qualifier and former Junior World Champ Tracey Hannah stole the show when she came down into the lead.

When everyone heals up, it'll be an interesting battle this year in the women's field!

Tracey Hannah secured her first World Cup win of 2011, and we're willing to bet that it won't be her last. - Photo by Sven Martin

Rank Name UCI Code Team Result
1 HANNAH Tracey AUS19880613 HUTCHINSON UNITED RIDE 4:33.806
2 CARPENTER Manon GBR19930311 MADISON SARACEN DOWNHILL TEAM +0.949
3 RAGOT Emmeline FRA19860527 MS MONDRAKER TEAM +2.810
4 KINTNER Jill USA19811024 TEAM NORCO INTERNATIONAL +8.492
5 RUCHTI Miriam SUI19870101 SC-INTENSE +10.896
6 SIEGENTHALER Emilie SUI19860919 SCOTT11 +11.402
7 MOLCIK Anita AUT19801112 +12.123
8 de SOUZA OLIVEIRA Luana Maria BRA19910528 +14.385
9 BERNHARD Petra AUT19801118 ALPINE COMMENCAL AUSTRIA +15.112
10 NICOLE Myriam FRA19900208 COMMENCAL / RIDING ADDICTION +17.275
11 SUEMASA Mio JPN19830401 +18.065
12 GRIFFITHS Fionn GBR19820827 +18.557
13 RUCKNAGEL Harriet GER19881011 +27.356
14 BRUEHLMANN Martina SUI19840924 +28.002
15 SAX Caroline FRA19881007 TEAM LAC BLANC / SOLID / BATIBOIS ALSACE +33.423
16 WILLIAMS Gabriela CZE19810728 CG RACING BRIGADE +34.377
17 CERNILOGAR Zarja SLO19891218 +46.668
18 ULRICH Tamara Maria AUT19921003 +1:24.564
PUGIN Floriane FRA19890417 SCOTT11 DNS
JONNIER Sabrina FRA19810819 LABYRINTH SHIMANO RACING TEAM DNS

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