Olympic mountain bike course "higher, wider and harder" after improvements made in response to rider feedback

The London 2012 Olympic mountain bike course has been made “higher, wider and harder” in response to rider feedback received at last summer’s test event.

With 128 days until the women’s event at Hadleigh Farm, Essex, the updated course was revealed to journalists, while Great Britain riders Liam Killeen, David Fletcher, Grant Ferguson and Kenta Gallagher got a sneak preview at the new layout.

“Any opportunity to ride the course is a bonus,” Killeen told Bikemagic. “You get to scope out some lines and spend some time on the course. You can train for the physical exertion of the course but you can’t train for the rock gardens. Any extra time is a bonus and you have to make the most of it.”

Key changes to the course include the additions of a new feature called The Rock Garden, while the main climb has been extended and the start loop has been extended, with the addition of a new climb on the opening lap, to avoid congestion. Several areas of the course have been widened to allow for more overtaking opportunities.

“The course that was built prior to the test event was to get a feel of lap times and to get feedback from riders,” course designer Martin Seddon told Bikemagic. “Coming away from the test event we knew we had to add some time into the lap because, come the Olympics, they’re all going to be on top of their game, so we needed to add a really good technical feature to make the lap that little bit trickier.

“It’s also been widened in places where the riders said they wanted to attack and, after watching the riders at the test event, we could see where those attacks were trying to happen so it’s our job to react to everything that’s fed back to us from teams and riders to make sure we create exactly what everybody’s after.”

Seddon’s team began work on the site in July 2010 and the initial course was completed nine months later. An additional six weeks work after the test event has brought the track to it’s current state, with only routine maintenance and “a few tweaks” to get the course ready for the Games – although Seddon admits there is some way to go before it’s decided which wheel size is most suitable for the 4.7km track.

“Most of the riders will be on hardtails but obviously they’re trying to figure out whether they should be on a 26-inch wheel or a 29er – or whether they’re going to do anything different altogether.”

Legacy plans revealed

Meanwhile, the future of the site had been in doubt as the track is on Salvation Army land but Essex County Council has confirmed the Olympic track will be altered after the Games to make it the focus of a wider network of trails in the area.

The course will changed so it is graded as a red run, with the option to skip more difficult technical section on a blue trail. Green multi-use trails will extend west into Hadleigh Country Park.

The network will include cycling access to Benfleet and Leigh-on-Sea train stations, while a central hub will include ranger facilities, toilet/changing rooms, a cafe, equipment hire and a shop. A planning application will be submitted this spring, with building work expected to be undertaken next winter with a phased completion targeted for autumn 2013.

Essex County Councillor Stephen Castle said: “Essex County Council and our partner, The Salvation Army, are committed to making the most of the opportunity of hosting the London 2012 mountain bike event and creating a lasting legacy not just for Hadleigh but for the county of Essex.”

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