All systems are go for the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike Cup opener, to be held at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park in Pietermaritzburg, South African in less than two months. Officials are on track to complete renovations to the world-class facility well in time to be able to welcome the world's best downhill and cross country riders.
The Pietermaritzburg round is expected to draw most of the sport's top riders. Being an Olympic year, the world's top cross country riders are eager to get in as much top-level competition as part of their preparations and qualifications for the 2012 London Games. This, together with the Cascades MTB Park having been confirmed as the venue for the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, the 2012 World Cup will also be a prized opportunity to compete at the highest level and become familiar with the layouts that will decide the world crowns next year.
Event organiser Alec Lenferna is confident that preparations are ahead of schedule and has a top-class team on board to handle every aspect of the event's infrastructure.
"The World Cup 2011 was a great event and we came away with ideas of how to improve the set-up, both for the riders and the spectators," said Lenferna. "Those plans for changes and improvement are in an advanced stage and we look forward to offering an even better event from March 16-18 this year. "We also view this as a dress rehearsal for the world champs next year, and we want to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts!" he said.
The Cascades MTB Park is one of only three current World Cup venues that can host both the downhill and cross country disciplines at the same venue, and the experts in charge of both of those courses have plans to boldly upgrade the tracks for the World Cup.
"Everything is all set and looking good at the moment," said cross country course designer Nick Floros. "It's likely that there will be some fairly extensive changes to the course this year, which we're very excited about but we're just awaiting final approval from the UCI before we get going with things in a week or two's time.
"The UCI has requested that the two feed zones are closer together this time, which will see things becoming a little harder for the riders and suiting the climbers a little more. From a spectator's point of view, it will be great because there will be a whole lot more action taking place right in front of them all the time," he said.
Meanwhile downhill course designer Nigel Hicks is focusing his efforts on making subtle track changes in an attempt to make the talked-about mid-section of the course a touch less physically demanding.
"There isn't too much happening on the downhill front just yet, but we've got a couple of subtle changes planned, especially for the pedally middle section, which hopefully will improve the flow through there and make this stretch a little shorter time wise," said Hicks.
"We're also going to be putting down granite overburden on most of the track, which will make a massive difference when it rains," he said. "Everything should be underway fairly soon, and we'll have two opportunities to test things out just beforehand and check everything is in place for the World Cup."
For more information on the Pietermaritzburg World Cup, visit www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za.
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