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MTB World Cup preview

Super soggy in Spa

Super soggy in Spa (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

Soggy slug fest in Spa

By Rob Jones in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

One week after the heat of Madrid, the Mountain Bike World Cup moves north to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, with heavy rain and mud on the menu. With 24 hours to go, torrential rain, high winds, thunder and lightning are sweeping the area, followed by teasing glimpses of sunshine. This dumps extra moisture on an already water-logged region, and the course is turning into a muddy mess.

The 5.5 kilometre circuit is almost completely different from last year, with only the opening climb carried over. The riders head up a paved climb on the Formula One circuit then cut into the woods to drop quickly back down and before making an immediate steep ascent again on single track. After another short drop they head up the main climb of nearly a kilometre and a half to the top of the course.

The long climb is becoming unrideable, and at the top the riders begin a steady descent through the trees where they run into a mud bog. At the bottom of the descent they have one more short, sharp climb and descent before a paved uphill run to the start-finish line. What they can ride will be either slippery or a slog through mud. Currently, the expectation is that there will be 4.5 laps for the men and 3.5 laps for the women.

Sabine Spitz (Specialized) is not at all happy with the circuit. "Last year it was a problem with mud sections, and they did not do much to improve it before the race. This year is the same, and they have not done anything to avoid this problem with the mud. They (the organisers) know what the climate is like in this area, so it should not be a surprise. This is very disappointing."

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