Riders must be on top of their game

2014-05-27 00:00

THE buzz ahead of the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships continues to build in KwaZulu-Natal’s capital as course designer Nick Floros and his team make the final tweaks to the widely anticipated route for of the global showcase.

The team members are hard at work to wrap things up ahead of the SA MTB Marathon Championships on June 7 and 8, which will serve as an ideal dry-run for the internationally renowned designer’s creation.

“We’ve been working on the course a lot over the past couple of weeks as we look to get things into shape ahead of SA Champs. We are trying our hardest to ensure the full World’s course is what is used at SA Champs,” explained Floros.

“This has been one of the toughest courses I’ve had to put together because it goes through so many different properties, however, it really will be a fantastic course with such great diversity, features and views!” he added.

Starting and finishing at Cascades MTB Park, the course is split into two sections, a 74 km first loop and a 21 km second loop.

The men’s race will see participants tackle both loops while the women’s title will be decided over the first 74 km only.

“This is a World Championships and so the standard of the course is obviously at this sort of technical level,” said Floros.

“The 95 km route includes 3 300 metres of climbing in total and the nature of the climbing, being short and sharp, tends to eat into your legs.

“Those who aren’t right on top of their game may be okay in the first loop, but they’ll really struggle in the 21 km loop!” he warned.

The 74 km loop takes riders through numerous different ecosystems with the game reserve stretches already being of particular interest.

“The first sector of the 74 km loop is a seven- kilometre stretch through Cascades’ forests and will see riders tackle some forest track, a couple of shortish stretches of single track and one or two sharp climbs before they head up to feed/tech zone one. The forest track allows riders to overtake before they head into the single track stretches while the climbs will see riders jostling for position.”

A visit to Queen Elizabeth Park is riders’ first game experience of the route before the tough climb up to the Mount Verde estate.

“The first climb isn’t steep but the steady gradient will be a good challenge,” said Floros. “The second feed/tech zone is inside Mount Verde before a playful descent should entertain the guys and girls a bit.

“After feed/tech zone three riders head towards Hilton College, where the Hilton College Nature Reserve trails offer some typical South African game trail riding. We’ve had to do very little to these trails as they are used daily by the animals of the reserve.”

Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve represents yet another standout feature of the course with spectacular views and a potentially race-defining climb on the cards. “Riders will climb for 20 to 25 minutes on a wide open road so there’s nothing technical about it but it will definitely allow the bigger guys to get into a bit of a rhythm.”

The return journey towards Cascades contours along Otto’s Bluff before some single track, farm roads and forest track return riders to Mount Verde.

“The views from Mount Verde of the city of Pietermaritzburg, Albert Falls Dam and the Greytown/New Hanover area are incredible.

“Riders then head through the start gate of the World Cup downhill course, do a loop of the Hilltop trail before heading past the Umgeni Water waterworks, onto Warwick Road and through the final feed/tech zone of the first loop.”

A dash down through Cascades’ forests will be fast and furious, particularly for the women, who then head for the finish line at the bottom of the hill. For the men, once through the start/finish arch, the second loop has a strong cross- country feel to it with numerous descents, none longer than 1 000 metres, and frequent short, sharp climbs. “English Road single track — from last year’s Masters World Champs — Forgotten Trail, Muzzlehouts, Fast and Fluffy single track, Bandits Bend, Vandals Valley and Growing Parks are just some of the many features of this short, testing second loop.

“A final 1,5 km stretch of road then heads into a short single track section and the finish straight where it will be flat out the whole way until the finish line!” added Floros.

The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on June 29. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za.

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