Greg Minnaar
Greg Minnaar
MTB Downhill season starts in Slovenia’s super-fast playground

After successful 2018 campaigns, Santa Cruz Syndicate retain their three riders – who are all set for an explosive season – and Team UNNO keep the same line-up, heading into 2019 to keep building on their solid 2018.

There are nine big races this year, with the first action for all five fizik riders starting at Maribor, across the weekend of 27-28 April.

Santa Cruz Syndicate

Frenchman, Loris Vergier and American, Luca Shaw, look to build on their top-10 overall finishes, under the leadership of multiple World Cup and World Championship winner, South African, Greg Minnaar. All run V-10 29ers with Gobi and Tundra saddles, Minnaar sat out much of 2018 with a broken arm but bounced back to finish in the top 10 at the World Championships and “shows no signs of slowing down as he heads into 2019 with double Junior World Cup winner, Vergier, scored his first Elites World Cup race win last year in Andorra, and bagged fourth overall for the season so expectations are high. While Shaw is also on the up, and super-quick when he hangs it all together, it was his turn to suffer misfortune in the days before the Maribor race. He crashed in a training ride, and despite riding on, later discovered he’d broken his collar bone – making racing, at least at Maribor, impossible. When Shaw’s fixed he’ll be raring to translate 2018’s three fastest qualifying runs into top step results.

Greg Minnar


Barcelona-based Team UNNO are set to improve on performances and results, with the same core team and two British riders, Taylor Vernon and Greg Williamson, who both run Gobi and Tundra saddles on their top-spec factory EVER and BURN bikes.

The 22-year-old Welshman, Taylor Vernon’s best performance so far in the Elites came at Mont Sainte-Anne, so keep your eyes peeled for him when the Canadian venue hosts the World Championships. Fast-riding Scot, Greg Williamson, is also double British DH Champion and has been working hard over the winter to make an impact and improve his top-10 World Cup finishes, such as at Leogang in Austria.

The courses

There are eight World Cup rounds in 2019 – one more than previously – plus the World Championships towards the end of the season. Many of the courses have some great characteristics and history, starting with a banger in Slovenia…

Luca Shaw

Maribor hosts a World Cup event for the first time since 2010, and while few of the riders other than the super-experienced Minnaar are familiar with it, there are many fans glad to see its return. The 2.6km long track has a total elevation drop of 450m. There has been some reworking with the race directors promising some new jumps in the first half of the track and new, fast sections towards the end of the course. It replaces Lošin, Croatia as the first race of the season – where Luca Shaw grabbed second last year: he will relish a return to Eastern Europe.

As the Tour Down Under opens the 2019 WorldTour calendar, here’s our guide to the year’s main racing highlights to look forward to.

Many of our teams’ riders are also targeting different races to get their seasons underway, so here’s where to watch them first:

27-28 April: Maribor, Slovenia – World Cup Round 1

1-2 June: Fort William, Scotland – World Cup Round 2

8-9 June: Leogang, Austria – World Cup Round 3

6-7 July: Vallnord, Andorra – World Cup Round 4

13-14 July: Les Gets, France – World Cup Round 5

3-4 August: Val di Sole, Italy – World Cup Round 6

10-11 August: Lenzerheide, Switzerland – World Cup Round 7

31 August-1 September: Mont Sainte-Anne, Canada – World Championships

7-8 September: Snowshoe, United States – World Cup Round 8