In a little more than a year the world’s top cross-country racers will be vying for gold, silver and bronze at the London Olympics. But before that, on July 31 to exact, many of those riders will be in the UK to throw down on the official XC course.
Sunday’s Olympic course test is being dubbed the Hadleigh Farm Mountain Bike International. A better description would be a shakedown cruise not just for racing but timing, scoring, moving spectators, admissions and other logistics. British Cycling is estimating that 5,000 race fans will descend on Hadleigh Farm to watch 44 women battle it out on the 5.1km course. After the women, 60 men will then tackle the track. Both men and women will be vying for a piece of the $6,500 prize purse.
The line-up for the Olympic test event includes Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medalists Sabine Spitz (Germany) and Julien Absalon (France). Absalon was also Olympic champion in Athens 2004. The line-up also includes current World Cup series leaders Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) and Julie Bresset (France). Also set to race are Luna Pro Team riders Catharine Pendrel (Canada) and Georgia Gould (USA). American Cannondale rider Jeremiah Bishop is on the start list for Sunday’s race.
Several American riders like Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Katie Compton, Heather Irmiger and others are opting to skip the test event after many participated in a non-competitive ride on the course in the spring or, if chosen for the U.S. team, will use the days leading up to the Aug. 11 and 12, 2012 race for practice.
Opinions of the course’s difficulty vary, but no efforts were spared to make the track technical for two days of mountain biking come the women’s race on Aug. 11, 2012 and then the men’s race the following day. Some 500 tons of rock and 3,500 tons of crushed stone were trucked into the site to build trail and technical sections.
The course overlooks the Thames Estuary and is 45 minutes from the Olympic Village in London. It was chosen in 2008 to replace Weald Country Park after the UCI ruled that it was not challenging enough for the sport’s top riders competing in an Olympics. Tickets will run $32 to $70.