With the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships Pietermaritzburg less than three months away, local organisers received a major boost recently when International Cycling Union (UCI) MTB International Commissaire Joel Obodov of Israel gave the event's mountain bike curses an unqualified thumbs up.
With the elite spectacle preceded by the UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships - a historic occasion in itself as the two events have never previously been staged consecutively at the same venue - Obodov looked at both the elite and masters courses during his time in the host city and is very happy with the preparation and progress being made.
"I was fortunate to have been able to visit the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg recently and meet up with Event Director Alec Lenferna and some of his team," said Obodov. "Alec was kind enough to show me parts of the course and how things will be setup and things are looking very good."
"Since the Cascades MTB Park has been used for top level international events before, there is a very good infrastructure in place already. It's a beautiful area and perfect for mountain biking," he said.
During his visit, with cross country course designer Nick Floros as his guide, Obodov enjoyed a first-hand experience of the masters cross country route and left fully satisfied with the basic structure and standard of the loop.
Despite a similar offer from downhill course designer Nigel Hicks, Obodov respectfully declined, although he did visit various sections of the course via vehicle and was impressed with what he saw there too.
"Nick Floros rode around part of the Masters cross country course with me and explained the different possibilities and all looks and sounds very good," said Obodov.
"Nigel Hicks was also kind enough to offer to ride the course with me, but there was just no ways. I'm no downhiller!" he chuckled. "But I did still visit parts of it and it looks very challenging."
With work on the courses still taking place and various features, technical sections and minor tweaks still to be added or complete Obodov and Floros discussed the various alterations still in the pipeline at length and swapped some interesting ideas around the work still to be completed.
"It was great to show Joel (Obodov) around sections of the courses, especially the masters cross country route, and he seemed very happy with what we've put together thus far," said Floros.
"We're very happy with the basic loop that we've put together for the masters cross country course but there are quite a few smaller technical sections that we're still working on so it is definitely a work in progress at this stage.
"We're going to be adding a couple of rocky outcrops that the guys will have to weave between. There will be one or two more bull runs added as well which, together with series of logs, gap jumps and a few small rock gardens, will hopefully make it a good mountain biking course.
"We're confident that by the time we're finished the bits and pieces we're still working on, we would have produced a course that is worthy of seeing a world champion overcome whilst also offering some easier, slower, alternatives to the average Joe just looking to be a part of the event," he said.
Obodov was also excited by the new concept of the same venue hosting both the elite and the masters events consecutively and was confident the organisers will host two very successful events in August with those who reach the top, particularly in the masters age groups, having been appropriately tested along the way by Floros and Hicks' routes.
"It's not often that the masters world championships takes place back to back with the elite world championships, and this year masters participants will have the unique opportunity to take part in an event of the highest level as well as being able to experience the incredible World Championship atmosphere straight after that," said Obodov.
"I'm really looking forward to working with Alec and his team and I sure this is going to be a top notch event.
"Both Nick Floros and Nigel Hicks are working hard on the masters courses and they both will be worthy of the World Championship title!" he said.
The UCI Mountain Bike World Championships takes place at The Cascades MTB park in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 to September 1, 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from August 21 to 25.
For more information, visit www.mtbworldchamps.co.za.