Image credit: Kyle Gilham/Gameplan Media
Floros and his team are hard at work as they look to wrap things up ahead of the SA MTB Marathon Championships on 7 and 8 June, which will serve as an ideal dry-run for the internationally renowned designer’s creation.
“We’ve been working on the course a lot over the past couple of weeks as we look to get things into shape ahead of SA Champs. We are trying our hardest to ensure the full Worlds course is what is used at SA Champs,” explained Floros.
“This has been one of the toughest courses I’ve had to put together because it goes through so many different properties however it really will be a fantastic course with such great diversity, features and views!” he added.
Starting and finishing at Cascades MTB Park, the course is split into two sections. A 74km first loop and a 21km second loop.
The global spectacle’s men’s race will see participants tackle both loops while the women’s title will be decided over the first 74km only.
“This is a World Championships and so the standard of the course is obviously at this sort of technical level,” said Floros.
“The 95km route includes 3300m of climbing in total and the nature of the climbing, being short and sharp, tends to eat into your legs.
“Those who aren’t right on top of their game may be okay in the first loop but they’ll really struggle in the 21km loop!” he warned.
The 74km loop takes riders through numerous different ecosystems with the game reserve stretches already being of particular interest.
“The first sector of the 74km loop is a 7km stretch through Cascades’ forests and will see riders tackle some forest track, a couple of shortish stretches of single track and one or two sharp climbs before they head up to feed/tech zone one
“The forest track allows riders to overtake before they head into the single track stretches while the climbs will see riders jostling for position.
A visit to Queen Elizabeth Park is riders’ first game experience of the route before the tough climb up to the Mount Verde estate.
“The first climb isn’t steep but the steady gradient will be a good challenge,” said Floros. “The second feed/tech zone is inside Mount Verde before a playful descent should entertain the guys and girls a bit.”
“After feed/tech zone three riders head towards Hilton College where the Hilton College Nature Reserve trails offer some typical South African game trail riding.
“We’ve had to do very little to these trails as they are used daily by the animals of the reserve!”
Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve represents yet another standout feature of the course with spectacular views and a potentially race-defining climb on the cards.
“Riders will climb for 20 to 25 minutes on a wide open road so there’s nothing technical about it but it will definitely allow the bigger guys to get into a bit of a rhythm!
The return journey towards Cascades contours along Otto’s Bluff before some single track, farm roads and forest track return riders to Mt. Verde.
“The views from Mount Verde of the city of Pietermaritzburg, Albert Falls Dam and the Greytown/New Hanover area are incredible!
“Riders then head through the start gate of the World Cup downhill course, do a loop of the Hilltop trail before heading past the Umgeni Water waterworks, onto Warwick Road and through the final feed/tech zone of the first loop.
A dash down through Cascades’ forests will be fast and furious, particularly for the women who then head for the finish line at the bottom of the hill.
For the men, once through the start/finish arch, the second loop has a strong cross country feel to it with numerous descents, none longer than 1000 metres, and frequent short, sharp climbs.
“English Road single track – from last year’s Masters World Champs – Forgotten Trail, Muzzlehouts, Fast and Fluffy single track, Bandits Bend, Vandals Valley and Growing Parks are just some of the many features of this short, testing second loop.
“A final 1.5km stretch of road then heads into a short single track section and the finish straight where it will be flat out the whole way until the finish line!” added Floros.
UCI MTB MARATHON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
LOOP ONE (74km)
The start/finish line at Cascades is in the same place as it was on the cross country course at this year’s World Cup in April.
The riders head up the start/finish straight towards the base of Red Face Hill. Just before they get to the base they turn right, past the bottom of Rapid Rocks rock garden, over the bottom of the World Cup downhill finish area and onto a forest road.
The course’s first 7km contour through Cascades’ forests and has a couple of 200-300m stretches of single track as well as some short, sharp climbs – each about 250m long – and eventually brings the riders to the first feed/tech zone.
After the first feed/tech zone the riders cross over Nonsuch Road, head into Queen Elizabeth Park and climb for 800-1000m before going through the Queen Elizabeth Park nursery which sees the riders get to the start of the first long climb of the course. This climb takes riders through a private farm and into Mt. Verde.
Inside Mt. Verde, riders reach the second feed/tech zone and then face the first real downhill which heads through a few valleys to the Mt. Verde exit point and up the biggest climb of the course thus far, up through a private farm, onto the D494 and to feed/tech zone 3.
After feed/tech zone 3 riders start a long descent down to feed/tech zone 4 and on towards Hilton College Estate. Riders have a short portage into the Hilton College Estate before they get onto the game trails of the Hilton College Nature Reserve.
The course then winds down to the bottom of the valley and riders head into Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve which brings one of the biggest climbs of the course and sees the riders make their way out of the valley.
After exiting Hilton College, riders go into another private farm and through to feed/tech zone 5.
After feed/tech zone 5 riders go over the D494 again, into another private farm and back into Mt. Verde’s reserve where they wind their way down to the bottom of Mt. Verde’s reserve to another of the day’s bigger climbs .
The end of the climb starts a section of contour riding around to Otto’s Bluff before some farm track, forest track and single track takes riders through to feed/tech zone 6.
Some more farm and forest track leads to the World Cup downhill course start where riders go through the downhill start gate and do a loop through to the Hilltop trail .
From the Hilltop trail the course heads past the Umgeni Water waterworks, onto Warwick Road and through to feed/tech zone 7.
Between feed/ tech zone 7 and the start/finish line is the single track Hairpin Descent and Brian’s Gums before riders head into the dual track above the Amphitheatre, go under the crossover bridge used in the World Cup cross country course and back towards the start/finish line where the women finish and the men begin the second, 21km loop.
LOOP TWO (21km)
Once through the start/finish line – completing the first 74km loop – the men head back out towards Red Face Hill to begin the second, 21km loop.
After the same first 500m as loop one, the men turn right, go under the crossover bridge, head up the World Cup cross country track for 800m and go up English road single track.
This is followed by a climb up to Forgotten Trail, Blackjack Socks, Muzzlehout and then Fast and Fluffy single track before riders descend down to an extraction road, climb up to above Muzzlehout, descend down Bandits Bend, head through Vandals Valley, Growing Parks, under two bridges and around the back of Sheraton.
As the men make their way through the final stages of the race there is a 1.5km forest road stretch before a short section of single track and the final section into the home straight.