The opening event of the RockyRoads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup is gearing up to take place in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in just a few days’ time. Here’s all you need to know about the challenging competition…
For the second year running, Cascades MTB Park, situated on the edge of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, has the honour of opening the prestigious UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
2012 will mark the 23rd anniversary of the first World Cup in 1989 and this year sees something of an overhaul for the competition. The key elements are still in place – namely the challenge of cross-country and downhill, with winning riders getting coveted points and even more highly desired jerseys – but the introduction of an additional format, a new partnership and dynamic coverage will ensure that the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will be more exciting than ever.
The new format is the cross-country eliminator (XCE) – which sees four competitors race each other over a lap of around 1km – and will be held at UCI MTB World Cup events in Houffalize, Nove Mesto na Morave and La Bresse. While the new partnership and coverage is provided courtesy of Red Bull Media House which will broadcast all the final races live and free of charge on www.redbull.com/bike.
With such a big investment in the year ahead, much will be expected from the opening event at Cascades MTB Park.
Aiming to ensure that it all goes off with a bang will be last year’s cross-country winner, Swiss rider Nino Schurter, who views the season-opening race as vitally important: “The first one is always the most important,” says 2011’s ranked No. 2 in the world behind the Czech Republic's Jaroslav Kulhavy. “The starting order of the following races depends on the first round. It’s important to find the confidence in the opening round. The tension is always higher than in other rounds.
"I like to race in Pietermaritzburg. Even though the course will be different, I'm sure I'm going to like it. The terrain will remain the same.”
Also looking forward to returning to the KwaZulu-Natal capital is last year’s downhill winner, Californian rider Aaron Gwin, who is returning to the Cascades MTB Park to defend his downhill world championship title: “Yeah, it's definitely a special race for me,” Gwin said. “I had a great weekend there last year. The town is cool and the crowd is always awesome.”
Take a first-hand look at the Cascades MTB Downhill course in this video…