The course for this year's Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC) on October 15-20, has been described as unique, offering a combination of highly technical terrain with the natural jungles of Langkawi as a backdrop.
LIMBC technical consultant Simon Burney, on his second trip to the islands to inspect the course, said the six-day race would pose a stiff challenge to the riders.
"We are in the midst of finding new things as the basis for our final layout of the actual course but in general, it's a really great course. It offers many unique features and a variety of challenges," said Burney, who is also a UCI Technical Delegate and the UCI Sports Coordinator for cross country mountain biking.
Burney added that a successful LIMBC 2012 would be crucial in strengthening Langkawi's bid to host one round of the UCI Marathon World Series in 2013 or 2014.
"This year's race will come under great scrutiny. Among the technical considerations and the overall organisation of the race we hope to see a number of the world's top 20 riders participating," said Burney.
Following the successful back-to-back editions of LIMBC in 2010 and 2011, race organiser Human Voyage is aiming to bring one round of the UCI Marathon World Series and the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships to Langkawi in the near future.
Asia has yet to stage a round of the UCI mountain bike series. The 2012 UCI World Cup and UCI Marathon Series has so far visited venues in South Africa, Belgium, Czech Republic, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Croatia, Canada and the United States, with remaining rounds in Latvia, Switzerland and Austria. There is the possibility that the 2013 UCI World Cup will visit China per the recently released UCI calendar for next season.
Burney was accompanied by eight-time British champion and former Olympian, Nick Craig, who was excited to be given the privilege to test the Langkawi course.
"Although some parts of the course are still under construction, my impression is that it offers a very nice technical terrain, with dirt roads and a jungle setting thrown into the mix," said Craig.
"The jungle is a big difference compared to the other races around the world. But it is very exciting indeed, with the opportunity of riding around nature too good to miss," said Craig, one of only two cyclists in history to compete in both the men's road race and men's cross country mountain bike race at the same Olympic Games, which he did in Sydney 2000. The only other cyclist to accomplish the feat was Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
This year's LIMBC will flag off on Monday, October 15 with a prologue - an individual time trial of 2.4km at the Eagle Square, followed by stage 1, a 65km round the island race.
Stage 2 is a 45km race from East to West Langkawi, followed by a gruelling stage 3, the 87km Langkawi Marathon. Stage 4 is an Olympic distance cross country race around Langkawi GeoPark followed by stage 5, a beach front finale around a short circuit at Pantai Kok.
LIMBC 2012 offers total prize money of US$125,000 (RM400,000) and is open to four categories of rider: Men open (ages 19-39), Women open (ages 19 and above), Masters men (ages 40-49) and Senior masters men (ages 50 and above)
In 2011, Germany's Karl Platt and Switzerland's Nathalie Schneitter clinched the overall victory in the men's and women's elite categories, respectively.
2012 Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC)
Monday, October 15: Prologue - Individual time trial - Eagle Square/Lagenda Park, 2.4km
Tuesday, October 16: Stage 1 - Langkawi Round Island Marathon - Eagle Square, 65km
Wednesday, October 17: Stage 2 - Langkawi East to West Point-to-Point - Eagle Square/Oriental Village, 45km
Thursday, October 18: Stage 3 - Langkawi marathon, Oriental Village 87km (men), 58km (other categories)
Friday, October 19: Stage 4 - Langkawi Geopark Cross Country, Oriental Village, 4.5km per lap
Saturday, October 20: Stage 5 - Pantai Kok Short Circuit, Pantai Kok, 1.6km per lap