On Sunday, the first formal run through of the 2012 Olympic mountain bike course takes place with the official test event in Hadleigh. The Essex town overlooks the Thames River Estuary, approximately one hour east of Central London.
Riders had an earlier opportunity to check out the circuit in May, after the Dalby World Cup in the north of England, but that was not under race conditions.
46 women and 60 men are registered for the event, including both of the defending Olympic champions - Sabine Spitz of Germany and Julien Absalon of France.
Other top women riders who are scheduled to participate include Elisabeth Osl (Austria), world number one Catharine Pendrel (Canada), Annika Langvad (Denmark), World Cup leader Julie Bresset (France), Eva Lechner (Italy), 2004 Olympic champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa and Lene Byberg (both Norway), Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) and Georgia Gould (USA).
On the men's side, in addition to Absalon, the start list includes World Cup leader Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic), cyclo-cross star Sven Nys (Belgium), Manuel Fumic (Germany), Marco Fontana (Italy), Christoph Sauser and Ralph Näf (both Switzerland) and Jeremiah Bishop (USA).
Riding conditions should be near perfect, in the low 20s (degrees Celsius) with a light breeze. The five-kilometre circuit is not particularly technical – as is often the case with Olympic courses – but includes three sizable climbs per lap and a couple of rock gardens. The terrain is also extremely open, so it will be nearly impossible for riders to get out of sight of chasers.
The event’s purpose is not only to allow riders sample the course at race pace, but also to try out all of the protocols, timing equipment and press facilities before the main event next summer.
Unfortunately, one significant glitch has already appeared: the organization decreed that no one could get in on Saturday without a credential, including those who were coming in to pick up their credentials. A large number of the cycling media were turned away, as well as the defending women's Olympic champion, Sabine Spitz. It appears that the organizers' filter was set a little too finely on this occasion.