Inside Canberra's grueling course

The final round of the World Cup mountain bike series will be held in Australia on August 30 and 31...

The final round of the World Cup mountain bike series will be held in Australia on August 30 and 31 on the same courses as the 2009 world championships. Bikeradar's John Stevenson looks at what's in store for the world's top riders Down Under.

The Olympic cross-country mountain bike course was made more technical when test events revealed it to be a bit too easy. That's not likely to happen with the 2009 world championships course at Mt Stromlo, Canberra, Australia. It's already hard enough that top local rider Ben Henderson thinks some sections will have a significant proportion of the field walking at the final round of the mountain bike world cup, August 30-31.

"The downhillers say that this bit is harder than anything on the downhill course," Henderson told us before piloting his Mongoose hardtail down a pair of treacherous, ultra-steep rock slabs that are made even more interesting by the surrounding rocks, bushes and brambles. They're not a comfortable landing zone if you stuff up.

Henderson showed us round the cross-country course on a sunny but cool afternoon that was typical of the weather riders can expect for next weekend. We basked in the winter sunshine, but reached for armwarmers and gilets when clouds covered the sun.

Downhill rock slabs aren't the only problem lurking in wait for the cross-country riders at Mt Stromlo. There's a 'b' line round that section - though it's not exactly easy - and there are several similar uphill sections.

Riders hit the singletrack - dubbed Cardiac Climb - after a section of fire road. As it twists and turns up Mt Stromlo they're presented with several steep, technical hairpins. Nestled in a few of them are even steeper, more technical sections that will save riders a few seconds - if they can ride them. Going the long way round will be safer but slower.

It's only about a kilometer long in total but Cardiac Climb is expected to be the crux section of the cross-country course. Whoever gets up it first will have a significant advantage and repeated ascents will wear riders down over the six laps of the men's race.

To read the full course preview, click here.

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