December is prime off-season time for most of the World Cup mountain bikers, but in just three months, the 2012 World Cup cross country and downhill season will kick off in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. It will mark the third time the international series has visited African soil.
The Cascades mountain biking venue, which hosted both the 2009 and 2011 UCI MTB World Cups, has undergone many transformations, and the cross country course in particular was lauded in 2011 as a challenging, fun track.
Hoards of spectators and numerous international trade teams are expected to descend on the city once again as cross country mountain bikers vie for all-important UCI-points early in the Olympic year for this Olympic discipline.
Downhill and cross country competitors alike will be looking to start their year on a high note and with maximum points before embarking on the international season, which will span almost six months and take them to many countries including Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, United States, Norway and Austria.
The 2012 event will be organised by Cycling SA, and Alec Lenferna will once again serve as the Event Director. The event organisers have been hard at work to secure offers for athletes who wish to be part of this event, and are pleased to announce that national carrier South African Airways (SAA) is an official event partner.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and the KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism proudly support the 2012 UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, an event that showcases the beautiful and diverse Zulu Kingdom.
Cross country racers will compete on a 5.15km course with 707m of elevation change. The course was designed by Nick Floros.
Downhill racers will cover 2.88km and drop 361m on a "pedally" course designed by Nigel Hicks. Rhythm sections and new jumps are being added for 2012.
Friday, March 16: Downhill qualifying (all categories) (2:30 pm)
Saturday March 17: Olympic cross country - U23 men (9:00 am), Elite women (11:30 am), Elite men (2:00 pm), U23 women (4:30 pm), Junior women (4:31 pm)
Sunday, March 18: Olympic cross country - Junior men (9:30 am)
Sunday, March 18: Downhill finals - All categories (1:15 pm and 2:00 pm)
Racers looking to spend time in South Africa prior to the World Cup may enjoy several UCI-registered events. Cross country races will be held in Giba Gorge on February 19, Karkloof on March 4 and Cascades on March 10. Cascades will also host a downhill on March 11.
For more information, visit www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za.