‘Wild’ track impresses

2013-08-28 00:00

THE first day of training for the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships got under way yesterday and the riders were greeted with sweltering conditions as they took to the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg for the first time.

Junior and Under 23 riders shared the cross-country and downhill courses with some of the sport’s legends, with world champions and world cup winners keeping the fans gathered around the courses enthralled.

After the UCI MTB Masters World Championships, both the cross-country and the downhill courses have taken a fair amount of strain, but they both drew rave reviews from riders enthusiastic about the standard and quality of the courses.

Being able to ride on the course has been a real benefit for the riders and former junior women’s world champion Andrea Waldis has been very impressed by the course on her first visit to South Africa.

“I have really been enjoying the course here,” the number eight-ranked rider said. “It has been a lot of fun being in South Africa already and this year is going to be interesting, because it is my first year of under 23.”

Australian rider Paul van der Ploeg is just soaking up the beautiful weather at the moment and is enjoying the change from the Australian winter.

“I can’t believe the weather here!” the Australian said. “Back home we’re in winter and so [being] out here and experiencing this weather is great.”

The appreciation for the course was shown by the Australian who went through quite a few laps in preparation for his race.

“It is a really wild course, I went through the course a couple of times, but I also spent quite a bit of time focusing on a couple of the sections.”

A number of the top riders were seen getting acquainted with the Cascades course and late in the afternoon world number one Nino Schurter took to the course that he is fairly familiar with. The defending champion has not noticed a remarked difference from the course he raced on last year in the UCI World Cup.

“It is an awesome course, but it is really slippery at the moment because it is so dry. Coming from summer to this sort of weather it isn’t really an issue for me and I am feeling pretty good after a couple of laps today.”

It was a tough first day for a lot of the riders and following the heated debate about closing A lines for the Masters World Champs, the UCI erred on the side of caution and officially closed all of the A lines for the junior girls and will be opening two of the four lines today.

As was the case with the Masters world champs last week, the first day of practice produced plenty of spills as riders got to grips with the technical sections of the cross-country and downhill courses.

The dusty, slippery track coupled with a number of riders riding the course for the first time meant that the course got the better of a couple of the riders.

The medical teams had a fairly busy day and it meant that they evacuated five riders to hospital, three with concussions, one rider with torn shoulder ligaments, and one with a broken hand.

More info can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za.

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