July 2, 2006 (Balneario Camborio, BRA) – Matti Lehikoinen of Team G Cross Honda won his first ever World Cup Downhill race today, and the first for the team this season, in a thrilling race at Camboriu Beach in Brazil. The spectacular course of 1.4km in the tropical jungle, beachside in southern Brazil, proved to be ideal for Matti, and very unlucky for his team mate Greg Minnaar, who punctured while on track for a top result. Matti, who has never been on a World Cup podium, despite many near misses, took to the top step and sang the words of his national anthem in front of a huge and enthusiastic Brazilian crowd.
However it was a disappointing end to Greg’s day after doing all that was necessary to keep the World Cup chase alive, finishing 3rd in the semi finals, and having the fastest intermediate time in the final; it was a sliced rear tyre in the final half of the course that caused a crash, and a subsequent 23rd place.
Early training on Friday saw slightly wet conditions, but the weather got better through the weekend and resulted in a perfectly dry day for the finals. In practice both Greg and Matti trained well, and despite hitting a tree hard on Saturday, Matti was confident he had the lines to get himself onto a podium, as he scored the 2nd fastest time in timed training, just 1/10 behind Peat. In the semi finals Greg’s tactic was to once again score as many points as possible. He conceded 10 points to series leader, Steve Peat (GBR), but this was not considered a major concern on the overall points scheme. Matti put in a solid run but had more to come. His 6th place in the semis had him poised for a podium debut in the finals.
In the final Matti hit the intermediate point with the fastest time by two seconds, 1m 43.96secs, and took the hot seat as the race leader. Five more riders were to come and this turned out to be a very nerve wracking 10 minutes for the 22 year old from Espoo.
First down was Gee Atherton (Team Animal/Giant) with a time of 2m 22.12secs, nearly 3 seconds slower than Matti. Next was Mick Hannah, winner of Round 1 in Vigo, and his intermediate time was dangerously close, but in the end, Mick was 1.5 secs back, and now Matti was looking at a possible top 3. Next was team mate Greg Minnaar, and his split was fastest at some 0.4secs faster than Matti. The crowd fell silent until Greg appeared on the giant screen, but soon after appearing on screen, he crashed. It was later obvious that he had a rear flat, his first ever in competition.
Greg congratulated Matti in the hot seat as he waited to see if the other big names in the sport would dislodge him. Steve Peat came closest, just 9/100ths of a second slower. By then Matti was literally shaking. Could his first ever podium be a win?
The final rider, Sam Hill (AUS), had the intermediate time of 1m 42.74secs, faster than Matti, but Matti wasn’t ready to give up the seat yet as Matti’s bottom half had been perfect. The crowd gasped as Sam Hill crashed in view of the finish area and Matti knew he had the win, an historic first ever male victory for Finland.
#11 Matti Lehikoinen (1st Place)
“I really can’t believe this, it’s like a dream. I had a great run, I really lifted my speed, and I thought I’d done enough to get on the podium. I honestly didn’t imagine this, I am so stoked. This is my 31st World Cup and I have been trying for so long. I’m not slow, I know I can do this, and today it all just came together. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m very happy for my team, my mechanic Mark, and the whole Honda Racing crew. To win in Brazil is perfect, it’s the next best thing to a home win because the people here are so supportive, that’s why I took the Brazilian flag to the podium, to say thanks for all the support.”
#1 Greg Minnaar (23rd Place)
“This is totally disappointing and frustrating. I have never had a puncture in a final in my whole career and it happens today, in the most important race of the year for the points chase. We’ve done everything right to chase down the title and to have something as simple as this happen – well that’s racing I guess, but it is hard. Of course I’m super happy for Matti. He’s worked so hard for this and I’m stoked he could take the win for the team today.”
Team Director Martin Whiteley
“A very emotional day. I have worked with Matti since his first World Cup in 2001 and have always believed in him, even through the tough results, but today he has shown everyone that he is a champion in the making. On the flip side I’m very sorry for Greg who has really gotten past the crash in Vigo and had such momentum in the past few races, really doing everything right. He’s still in 2nd place overall and he will fight to the end, but it’s obviously a tough day for him. The World Championships are next month and that will be a new objective and challenge for 2006.
Women’s DH Report
18-year-old Rachel Atherton of Wales won her first ever World Cup Downhill here in Brazil today, after a strong semi final raised her confidence for a possible win.
The 2005 Junior World Champion finished her semi final just 1.3secs off World Cup series leader Tracy Moseley (GBR) and Atherton knew where she could make up some extra time.
“As I went up in the gondola I just pictured myself beating Sabrina’s (Jonnier) time and taking the hot seat. I had a perfect run, except for the last jump where I bobbled a bit. When Tracy came down I really didn’t think I had it, then the clock stopped with her time slower. I’m so happy to win here. Brazil is such a cool country and apart from winning in Fort William, this is where I wanted to win. The course is awesome, it really suits me, and my Giant was always feeling good here. Thanks to Bob our mechanic for making the bike super reliable.”
Atherton’s winning time of 2m 38.25secs was 0.72 ahead of Jonnier and 2.62secs ahead of series leader Moseley.
Atherton sits in third overall, 110 points behind Jonnier and more than 200 down on Tracy Moseley who realistically has the series wrapped up.
Semi Final Results Men
1. Sam Hill Iron Horse Mad Catz 2:19.85
2. Steve Peat Santa Cruz Syndicate 2:19.97
3. Greg Minnaar Team G Cross Honda 2:20.84
4. Mick Hannah Cannondale/The Cut 2:21.70
5. Gee Atherton Team Animal/Giant 2:21.84
6. Matti Lehikoinen Team G Cross Honda 2:22.30
Final Results Men
1. Matti Lehikoinen Team G Cross Honda 2:19.31
2. Steve Peat Santa Cruz Syndicate 2:19.40
3. Mick Hannah Cannondale/The Cut 2:20.69
4. Gee Atherton Team Animal/Giant 2:22.12
5. Marc Beaumont Team MBUK Santa Cruz 2:22.14
6. Markolf Berchtold Maxxis-MSC 2:22.27
7. Bryn Atkinson Team GT 2:22.56
8. Cedric Gracia Team Commencal 2:22.59
9. Julien Camellini France 2:22.79
10. Andrew Neethling Mongoose Hyundai 2:23.17
Final Results Women
1. Rachel Atherton (GBr) Team Animal / Giant 2:38.25 0
2. Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) Monster/Iron Horse/Mad Katz 0.72
3. Tracy Moseley (GBr) Kona Les Gets Factory Tea 2.62
4. Helen Gaskell (GBr) Khs 3.02
5. Emmeline Ragot (Fra) Qbikes 3.66
6. P. Pizarro Bernardita (Chi) 7.06
7. Celine Gros (Fra) Alvarez Racing 9.43
8. Melissa Buhl (USA) 10.46
9. Mio Suemasa (Jpn) 11.51
10. Anita Molcik (Aut) Arbo Rsp Downhill Racing 14.95
11. Fionn Griffiths (GBr) Norco 15.32
12. Diana Marggraff (Ecu) Zenith-Mtb-International 20.85
13. Veronica Miranda (Chi) 46.96
14. Bock Annedore (Bol) 1:00.23
15. Patricia Araujo, (Bra) 1:03.57
16. Stephanie Scherrer (Bra) 1:08.66
17. Vanessa Vallerino (Chi) 1:39.37
DNF M. De La Ordem (Arg)
Overall Standings after 5 events
1. Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 898
2. Greg Minnaar (Team G Cross Honda) 720
3. Sam Hill (Iron Horse Mad Catz) 696
4. Gee Atherton (Team Animal/Giant) 653
5. Mick Hannah (Cannondale The Cut) 603
6. Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 599
7. Cedric Gracia (Team Commencal) 589
8. Marc Beaumont (Team MBUK Santa Cruz) 586
9. Matti Lehikoinen (Team G Cross Honda) 559
10. Chris Kovarik (MS Intense Factory Racing) 543
58. Andrew Mitchell (Can) Team Cove Bikes 25
74. Luke Kitzanuk (Can) Giant Canada 14
92. Dominick Menard (Can) Devinci/Daredevil 7
1. Tracy Moseley (GBr) Kona Les Gets Factory 1,093 pts
2. Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) Monster/Iron Horse/Mad Katz 980
3. Rachel Atherton (GBr) Team Animal / Giant 870
4. Emmeline Ragot (Fra) Qbikes 697
5. Celine Gros (Fra) Alvarez Racing 543
6. Helen Gaskell (GBr) KHS 532
7. Marielle Saner (Sui) Team Bikepark.Ch Tui 525
8. P. Pizarro Bernardita (Bernardita Chi) 487
9. Fionn Griffiths (GBr) Norco 414
10. Mio Suemasa (Jpn) 397
14. Claire Buchar (Can) Specialized/RockShox 245
16. Danika Schroeter (Can) Team Cove Bikes 181
24. Adrienne Miller (Can) Devinci/Daredevil 87
25. Katrina Strand (Can) 75
27. Brook Baker (Can) 64
44. Sheila Morris (Can) 37
47. Caroline Milot (Can) 32
49. Marie-Eve Marcotte (Can) 30
1. Team G Cross Honda 257
2. Team Animal Giant 193
3. Team MBUK Santa Cruz 160