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Olympic MTB Test Event at Hadleigh Farm – Preview and PHOTOS

by Jean Ann Berkenpas

July 30, 2011 (Hadleigh, UK) – On Sunday, July 31st, the first formal run through of the London 2012 Olympic MTB course will take place with the test event in Hadleigh in Essex, about one hour east of London. A sellout crowd of 5,000 will watch 106 of the world’s best cross-country mountain bikers training and racing on the 5.1km course at the Hadleigh Farm Mountain Bike International this weekend.

In May following round #2 of the UCI MTB WCup series at Dalby Forest in Yorkshire England, riders had an opportunity to test and train on the course but Sunday’s event will be the first time in realistic race conditions.

A total of 46 women and 60 men are registered for the event including defending Olympic champs Sabine Spitz of Germany and Julien Absalon of France. Also on the start line will be the men’s and women’s UCI MTB World Cup leaders Julie Bressete (France) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) – women’s standings HERE; men’s standings HERE.

A small Canadian contingent is also at the event including recently crowned the 2011 MTB National champ, Catharine Pendrel (Luna) of Kamloops BC, who is currently number one in the UCI World ranking (click HERE). Also in attendance are Andrew Watson (Barrie, ON) and Evan McNeely (Kingston, ON). Many riders, including current Canadian MTB Champion Max Plaxton, have opted to stay home to  rest and train, having already previewed the course in May.

“The loop is fast, hard-packed dirt with some loose rock sections to challenge climbing skills. Lots of rocks were brought in from northern England (where the rocks are harder) and arranged around the course to offer various rock gardens, both up and down, step ups and drops. Most of the climbing is switch-back style to create more climbing from only 74m of elevation change (Beijing had 64m and was one of the hilliest races I’ve done),” said Pendrel following the course preview in May.

“The climbs in London are not steep, but with the fast track we will be seeing them all at least six times in our race. Because it’s so fast, and there is nothing that will really separate riders like a monster climb or a super tricky section, the race will really stick together. It will require patience, smarts and decisive moves.”

Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) also previewed the course after Dalby saying, “The London 2012 Olympic course made a much better impression in person than it did on the videos I saw previously. They did as best they could under the circumstances, building a course in a field, but obviously I would prefer a much more natural and technically demanding course. The course still has its challenges and I am confident that if I arrive in London next year with good legs I can excel there. A bit of rain on it would put a smile on my face.”

The course is very open, containing a few major man-made features such as the Leap of Faith, the Rabbit Hole, and the Breathtaker. These sections should draw massive spectators who will have the freedom to move about the course. Aside from these features and some loose climbs, the course which is often windy, should favour pack tactics.

The gates open at 9am for spectators and the Elite Women are off at 11am followed by the Elite Men at 2pm.

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