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All eyes on Mont-Sainte-Anne for mountain bike Worlds

The 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships get underway on Wednesday morning with the team relay and junior women's cross country. After finishing up the World Cup in Windham, New York, the top pros for all three disciplines - cross country, four cross and downhill - made the 800-kilometre trek north to Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. They are joined by the trials athletes for the Worlds. A total of 719 athletes from 39 countries will participate in these championships.

Monte-Sainte-Anne has a long, long history with the sport - since the World Cup began in 1991 - and previously held the world championships in 1998. This year's World Championships courses are on par with previous courses built by the Gestev organization, and are already well received by the athletes.

True to its reputation, the cross country course offers diversity; it is both technically and mentally challenging as well as physically demanding. When the athletes think they can rest; the course throws something at them, requiring constant focus. The 4.6-kilometre route is a shorter version of the World Cup course used last year, in line with the UCI's move toward more spectator and television friendly requirements.

The short start loop takes the riders into the longest climb of the course, which is wide open before the righthand side narrower entrance leading to the first piece of singletrack. The riders then face "Beatrice", a difficult and spectacular rocky section under the Gondola, followed by the second shorter climb (La Marmotte), which features a couple of difficult hairpins towards the top but offers a great view of the St. Laurent river, for those who have time to admire the setting. The rock garden has already claimed one victim. Under 23 rider Martin Fanger from Swiss team crashed hard and is unlikely to race.

A loose section of singletrack then follows as the riders return towards the finish area. After completing the western portion of the course, riders head to the east, where over a kilometre of up and down, twisty ribbon-like narrow tracks await. The course is dry and dusty but rain is forecasted for the weekend.

The downhill is very similar to last year, at 3.1-kilometres in length and dropping from 800 metres down to 150 metres by the finish. The dry conditions will make the course even faster than normal, and repeated riding has smoothed out the rough edges.

The four cross is also very similar to last year, with the first two turns critical for positioning before hitting the rock garden 150 metres into the 400-metre run.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and including live coverage of the elite women's and elite men's cross country races on Saturday, September 4 at 11:00 and 14:00 local (EDT) time.

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