Hafjell and Lillehamer team up to host cross country, downhill Worlds
In 2014, Hafjell and Lillehamer, Norway will host the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. With one year to go, organizers, keeping with tradition, presented their championships event at the recent 2013 Worlds in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
"We were awarded the world championships after many hard years of work," said Kjell Tore Bjørnhaug, Event Director, to Cyclingnews. "We started doing small events and we grew and got bigger and bigger. After we hosted the European Championships in 2010, the only way to go was the World Cup."
Hafjell hosted a gravity World Cup last year, and this coming weekend, it will host a triple World Cup, with cross country, eliminator and downhill racing, the perfect test event one year in advance of the Worlds.
"After we hosted the first World Cup, we talked to the UCI, and they needed a good host for 2014 Worlds," said Bjørnhaug. "So we're there now, we've gotten to the top. We started this work 12 years ago. Now we have the expertise and knowledge to do it. Now we're ready."
Bjørnhaug noted that the big difference in stepping up to host the Worlds is more logistics and more people. "You can host a big national event, but it's nothing. With Worlds, everything is so much bigger - like the TV and the press. It fills up the beds in the hotel. It's so much bigger and there is so much more to work with. It's great."
Hafjell will host both the downhill and cross country events at Worlds in 2014 while the eliminator will be hosted in downtown Lillehamer. In contrast, for this weekend's World Cup, all three events are being held in Hafjell.
Having the Worlds in Norway should work out well for the country's most famous current mountain biker, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), who is also a regular blogger on Cyclingnews.
"Gunn-Rita is an ambassador; she's our best athlete in mountain biking," said Bjørnhaug. "She's loving that we will host the Worlds for her. She said that maybe our Worlds will be the end of her career and that she's going to quit then, but you never know. She's doing well - she won the marathon Worlds this year and she's promised me that she will be in top shape for the World Cup here."
The 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships will be hosted in Cairns, Australia, but the 2015 and 2016 Worlds locations have not yet been announced.