LOCAL mountain bikers are being given the chance to tackle a world cup course as the UCI Cross Country Mountain Bike World Cup returns to Dalby Forest.
The event is being staged in the 3,440-hectare beauty spot, with a frantic road race through the streets of Pickering on Friday evening raising the curtain on a weekend of mountain bike action.
Last year teams from across the globe rated Dalby as the top World Cup venue on the international circuit. Nearly 11,000 fans watched the action unfold and this time round the weekend is set to be one of the biggest mountain bike events held in Britain ahead of the London Olympics.
Many riders competing in Dalby will be pushing for qualification points to compete in next year’s Games. Not to be outdone, local bike fans are also signing up to complete a timed lap of the black rated World Cup course on the Saturday as part of the famed citizen’s ride - the Dalby Dare.
Among them is James Risker, 27, from Wykeham, who said it’s like being able to play on the Wembley turf just before the FA Cup Final.
“I wanted to give it a go last time but got too tied up during the World Cup event,” says Mr Risker, who has been off road biking for 15 years and who works as a mechanic and guide at Purple Mountain Bike Centre in Dalby. “The course is pretty tough to say the least but what a fantastic opportunity to use the same trail as the world’s elite and compare a lap time.”
A giant tented village in Adderstone Field will be the centrepiece of Dalby’s World Cup weekend with trade and exhibition space sold out.
Engineers have also made tweaks to the World Cup course, explained the Forestry Commission’s Martin O’Vastar.
He said: “Feedback last year on the quality of the trail was brilliant, but we want to refine it further after talking with British Cycling and the UCI. The length has been shortened and the aptly named Worry Gill, which forced many bikers to dismount and run with their bikes, has been made slightly easier so more riders can stay in the saddle. It’s still a tough ask, but this is the sport’s pinnacle.”
Such is Dalby’s reputation that the Forestry Commission has been giving advice to the designers of the Olympic cross country mountain bike course being built in Essex.
That event will replace the Dalby World Cup round next year, but top racing is expected to return to North Yorkshire in 2013.