All eyes will turn to the Saalfelden-Leogang region of Austria about this time next year. That is where the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships will be held from August 29 to September 9. Organizers and the UCI presented the next edition of the Worlds at an event on Thursday evening at the 2011 Mountain Bike World Championships in Champery, Switzerland.
"The UCI is happy that this venue is hosting this world championship," said UCI President Pat McQuaid, who was on hand for the ceremonies. "2012 is the 10th anniversary of the last time the mountain bike world championships were held in Austria and where if I remember correctly, four cross was introduced."
"From what I've seen here this evening and what my staff has told me, I'm confident these Worlds will be a resounding success."
The last time a UCI-sanctioned cycling world championship was held in Austria was the road Worlds in Salzburg in 2006.
What will be new for the 2012 mountain bike Worlds is a longer format, spread out over two weekends instead of a few weekdays plus one weekend. Although many teams and media have expressed concerns about the format, which will cost more to support due to the longer stay required to cover all events, McQuaid saw the new format in a positive light.
"I think it's a sign that mountain biking is getting bigger and is more popular. It's a sign that there are more athletes and more countries involved that we have to split it," he said. "We're doing the same thing with the road worlds next year - for the same reason. Road is getting so popular and big that we can't keep it all in three or four days any more."
"This will provide more possibilty for a festival and more a of a chance for people to make a holiday of it rather than people just coming for the serious weekend days. It's a motivation to make it a bigger event."
McQuaid said he anticipated the new format would be carried forward into future road and mountain bike Worlds.
"It's the direction we are going and want to go," he said."
Leogang has hosted gravity events of the World Cup in 2010 and 2011. It will host the gravity portion of the Worlds from Friday, August 31 to Sunday, September 2 while Saalfelden will host cross country events from Thursday, September 6 to Sunday, September 9.
Leogang's downhill and four cross tracks will be similar to those used in previous events although some modifications are underway.
2012 will also mark the first running of the cross country eliminator as a world championship event. It is scheduled the day after the elite cross country races as organizers are hoping more elite riders will participate if it is a world championship event after the marquee cross country event.
The Saalfelden cross country track will be 4520m long and feature 180m of climbing per lap. The course's elevation ranges from 780m to 884m, so altitude will not be a factor. The furthest points apart on the course are 720m.
Racers will have a chance to preview the new course in a UCI category C1 test event on October 16. The course will be open for pre-riding on October 15.
The cross country eliminator will be held in the city center of Saalfelden on a 600m course with four stairs sections.
For more information on the 2012 Mountain Bike World Championships, visit www.saalfeldenleogang2012.com.