The 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano will begin with the first round in Dalby Forest, Yorkshire, as scheduled, on April 24-25, despite the air traffic difficulties that have been interfering with the travel plans of many of the world's top cross country mountain bikers.
A volcanic eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland halted air travel over northern Europe for a majority of the past week, and airlines are scrambling to get flights moving again as air conditions improve. Prevailing winds have been blowing the ash cloud over the United Kingdom, causing many flight cancellations.
Nonetheless, teams from Australia and Canada have already arrived at the Yorkshire World Cup venue. And the UCI Commissaire President has travelled overland from Germany to ensure that the event goes ahead.
Many racers are in process of making marathon trips en route to Dalby. For example, Sea Otter short track winner and Pan American champion Todd Wells (Specialized) said on Facebook that it took him 40 hours of travel to get from Monterey, California, to Dalby Forest. Fellow Sea Otter racer Roel Paulissen (Cannondale) is still en route, but has made it as far as Amsterdam, while former World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (Multivan Merida) is taking her chances on a last-minute Friday flight to the United Kingdom from Norway.
Some of the racers starting their journey to the World Cup from the European continent have had it a bit easier thanks to the possibility of travel by automobile. World Champion Nino Schurter has planned a seven-hour drive to the Dalby venue after winning the Internazionali d'Italia - Marlene Sunshine Race in Italy this past weekend. Deciding to forego the uncertainties of air travel, most of the Multivan Merida mountain bike team has set out for England by car, making the best use of the team's title sponsor Volkswagen to get its favorites José Hermida and Ralph Näf to the start line.
Organizers suggested that teams without flight options directly to the United Kingdom make arrangements to get to Calais by sailing to Dover. They were recommending against sailing into Hull or New Castle given that those routes were sold out.
The weekend's World Cup-related action will kick off at 6:00 pm on Friday, April 23 in Pickering with an urban circuit race the Pro Sprint Eliminator. The Junior World Cup for 16-18-year-olds will take place on Saturday, April 24 followed by the Dalby Dare, an opportunity for the public to challenge the course. The weekend's highlights include the elite men's and women's cross country races on Sunday, April 25.
The mountain bike World Cup is not the first major international cycling event to be affected. The volcanic eruption and subsequent travel difficulties already wreaked havoc on the start list of Sunday's Amstel Gold Classic.