Many of the top riders at the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway have previously ridden and raced the cross country course at World Cup rounds, but familiarity didn't stop them from spilling forth with enthusiastic praise for the course.
"I love this course," said US Cross Country National Champion Lea Davison after helping her team to fourth place in Wednesday's team relay. "I think this course is the perfect blend. It's challenging in all aspects. It's very technical in sections and you come into them after long, hard climbs. It will warrant a proper world champion."
Her US teammate Todd Wells, the reigning elite men's cross country national champion, said, "It's a good course. I got here on Friday, so it's changed a lot since then. Normally at past World Cups, there are only technical downhills, but here it's cool because we also have technical uphills and not just technical downhills."
Wells is racing his 16th mountain bike world championships. He's done every edition since 2001 and two in the 1990s.
After racing a lap around it and helping his French team win the team relay, Maxime Marotte said, "You had to be very focused the whole time. It's important, especially on the first climb, which is slippery with the roots and rocks. It's also important to concentrate on the downhills because if you make a mistake, your race is over and you are in the hospital."
The course features many different, constantly changing lines and Marotte said it was important to be flexible on line choices. "The lines changed a lot from the riders before me. If the riders who are in front of me kick up rocks in my way, I have to adjust my line on the fly."
American rider Russell Finsterwald was also psyched about the course after some pre-riding on Tuesday.
"The course is good - there's lots of fun stuff out here," he said. "It's different than your typical World Cup - there are lots of tricky uphills. I think they will be a deciding factor in the race."
"There's a bit of everything out there. This is a course where you need to spend more time than normal checking out your lines. You can make up time, for example, in the jumps, but there can be problems when cross country racers try to jump."
Under 23 rider Howard Grotts said, "The course is a good one. It's a total mountain bike course. It's got a variety of climbs - some long, some short and fast and a really steep one at the end. The descents always keep you on your game because there are a lot of lines to chose from out there."
"I don't think the course is more technical than some we ride, but it's the Worlds so everyone wants to have the perfect line. There's really only one technical feature that needs some confidence before dropping into it. That's the second to last rock diagonal downhill."
The forecast is for dry conditions, but the course is challenging even when dry, according to Wells, and it would be extra difficult should it get wet.
The elite men will race seven laps of the 4.1km course while the elite women will do six laps. Other categories race fewer laps with the junior women doing the least at four laps.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the cross country races on Thursday (juniors), Friday (under 23s) and Saturday (elites). The downhill racers get their turn on Sunday.