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Five highs from the 2012 mountain bike Olympics

4. High: The Hadleigh Farm course

There was no shortage of criticism for the Hadleigh Farm race course after last year’s test event. Critics felt like the race organizers had picked the flattest part of the country for the Olympic mountain bike race and then trucked in rocks in a few places on the unwooded hillside and left the rest like flat jeep roads.

That response wasn’t far off from the truth, but The Hadleigh Farm course didn’t disappoint. It was ideally set up for viewing and led to dramatic races.

The 20,000 spectators that attended both days of the sold-out races got good views of long stretches of the course and were able to spread out around the venue.

The course designers trucked in 3,500 tons of crushed stone to build the course and 500 tons of rock to create technical features.

While most of the course lacked technical challenge, the features including Snake Hill, The Rock Garden and Deane’s Drop were significant, and where there were a choice of lines the “A” line was substantially faster than the more modest line, which made for more exciting racing.

With frequent, punchy climbs, it was physically taxing, as well. “There are other courses that are more demanding but physically it’s going to be one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” Catharine Pendrel told Singletrack.com before the race.

Plus, the wide sections without a strong technical element led to great group racing in both races.

While it may not have resembled a standard World Cup course, the Hadleigh Farm course was challenging physically, mentally and, in places, technically, and it made for great watching both live and on TV.