The Mountain Biking events get under way this weekend at the Hadleigh Farm Estate on the Thames Estuary. The course is predominantly man made with quality technical sections to please both the riders and the crowds. The 4.7km track will be fast in the dry, but typical British weather may make this course even more technical and gnarly in the wet.
The riders must complete seven laps of the 4.7km trail with 142m of climbing per lap, this equates to 1200m of climbing for the duration of the race.
The race is very easy to understand, all riders start at the same time and are lined up based on their current UCI ranking, the one which finishes first wins. If a rider is lapped then he/she finishes the lap he/she is riding before being disqualified from the remainder of the race.
A feed/technical zone is available on one portion of the course about half way round. Here the riders can get gels, bars, or drinks as well as any technical assistance if it is required. This is the only section on the course where riders can get help, any punctures or other mechanicals on other portions of the course and the rider will be repairing it themselves.
As all the riders start at the same time the course starts off wide and feeds directly into a climb, this should help stop any bottlenecks occurring; however, as there are limited passing areas it does force the riders to fight for a decent position off the front.
The first technical rock section is early in the course and encompasses three different choices for the riders to attack. The most direct route is a 2ft drop onto another rock slab, the two other options are along the side of the drop but riders who decide not to take the most technical route will incur time penalties.
Deans drop is next along the course. Another feast of boulders but with only 2 different routes this time, riders can gain up to 10 seconds on the other riders if they face the most technical section.
The gap jump will force the riders to jump the gap or take the ramp, of course the quickest route is to leap rather then roll so it is likely that if they need to gain the time you will see plenty of leaps of faith.
Snake hill is a short, sharp climb with tight switchbacks and in-bedded rock gardens to try and catch out the riders. There are a few passing places here for those who are ready to make a move or are just able to continue at a faster pace going uphill.
The Rabbit hole is the crossover section of the course and the best place to see the positions of the riders and how close or far they are behind you; this will lead the riders directly to the Leap of Faith – the next hairy section. Riders face a steep wooden drop-off; if they just aren’t brave enough to pull this off they can always take the chicken run made on the side of the section, but again, doing this will slow you down and most will likely take the most direct route possible.
Another rock garden awaits the riders just ahead; this section is the perfect place to launch an attack on the competition as are a few good areas to overtake in. Then it’s on to the Breathtaker – this leads the rider’s home, via a few easy switchbacks and overtaking options before crossing the finish line.
With 30 women competing on the Saturday and 50 men on the Sunday this rocky, rooty, fast paced ride will take around 1hr 30 to 1hr 45min to complete. As the UCI hasn’t yet made any rules on the type of bike the mountain bikers have to ride there will be a variety of different frames and wheel sizes on the day. Some will choose the classic hardtail as generally they are lighter and quicker to accelerate than a full suspension bike, but a full suspension bike is easier on the body when it comes to the rough stuff and definitely faster on the technical sections. There are 3 different wheel sizes as well. 29ers are larger than the standard wheels but are known to roll better over rocks and roots, however, 29ers are harder to get moving then standard wheels so they accelerate more slowly. A 26” wheels does allow you to scream out of the start and is great on the berms and the straights, but it won’t roll over the rock beds as nicely as the 29er. And now there is a new wheel size for riders to choose from. The 650B wheels are supposed to give the rider the benefits of both the 26” and the 29” wheels. I will be interesting to find out what wins on the day.
The newly made course should be quick and awesome to watch. Riders who are fit will fight through every twist and turn to take up the front. There will be jumps, bumps, rocks and crashes to keep you entertained for the afternoon. No matter what type of cyclist you are the Olympics have been a great place to check out the competition, and you never know, you could be the next rider to attack the trails for a winning ride.