Mountain bike race course gets a major facelift

2014-02-26 00:00

THE much talked about downhill course at the Cascades MTB Park will get a major face-lift before the world’s best MTB riders converged on the region for the season-opening UCI MTB World Cup presented by Shimano from April 11 to April 13.

Course designer Nigel Hicks says the three-kilometre layout, which hosted the World Championships last year, will be the subject of major work that will revamp the course and require careful thought by downhillers wanting to be successful at the PMB leg of the World Cup.

Playing his cards close to his chest, Hicks said he was planning a totally new track down the upper and lower sections of the track, with line changes that would make it more technical and challenging, while not affecting the speed characteristics of the course.

“We will be introducing new log drops and rock gardens, as well as cutting out some of the bridge gaps,” said Hicks as he and his team prepare to start working on the course changes.

“The course has not changed much over the last few years, and the changes will require some serious thinking on the top and bottom sections. It’s not just going to be a highway.”

The course is unique in international downhill in that it has a distinctive mid-section that flattens out, requiring riders to pedal to sustain their top speeds until they reach the steeper lower reaches of the course.

Despite the so-called “pedally” mid-section, the Cascades MTB Park Downhill course has consistently recorded some of the highest speeds on the World Cup circuit, with riders topping 80 km per hour through the Gulley section. In recent years, Hicks has worked hard at adding in flowing trails and jumps that bring faster elements to the mid-section and remove the emphasis on pedalling. These changes have been uniformly welcomed by the elite downhill riders.

Hometown World Champion Greg Minnaar said that the modified mid-section had made the course even tougher, and serious riders had to strategise where to save energy for pedalling and where to relax.

Hicks, who won his age group at the Masters World Championships last year, has promised downhillers that they will be in for a few surprises when they see the courses changes after he and his team are finished “handcrafting” the course.

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