MTB Marathon World Champs show off Pietermaritzburg’s best assets

Having established himself as one of the top cross country mountain bike course designers globally, Nick Floros will return to something that is very familiar to him when he puts together a route that will take the world’s best mountain bike marathon riders through some of the more scenic terrain of Kwazulu-Natal when the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park from 27-29 June.

The dust has finally settled following another successful instalment of the UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, in Pietermaritzburg and Floros and his team are throwing themselves head-on into preparing for the June spectacle.

“The preparations have been going okay so far,” Floros mentioned sedately. “With a few months to go until the event we are really going to get ourselves involved now and hopefully make a big ding in the preparation of the course in the next few weeks.”

Putting together a marathon course is very different to that of a cross-country course and offers up different challenges. For Floros though, it gives him the chance to show the riders the natural landscape of the region and showcase certain landmarks to the riders and the rest of the world.

“With cross country I am given a blank canvas and have to create a course that doesn’t take in natural landmarks and that sort of thing. However, with marathon I can now incorporate the landmarks that surround Pietermaritzburg and really give the riders something great to see while really testing the top end of their mountain biking skills as well!

“The Umgeni Valley must be one of the standout landmarks that the riders are going to see but they will also have great views of Albert Falls Dam, the city of Pietermaritzburg as well as the Hilton College valley and Mount Verde,” an excited Floros added.

Heading into the Umgeni Valley is one of the standout features of the race but getting there is going to have to take some clever work from the trail blazing guru and his team as the designers, and then the riders, will be confronted with a somewhat problematic decent here.

“The riders will head out on Adrian Scales’ land that has a very steep road that heads into the valley which we are going to have to make a bit safer with some single track,” he said cautiously.

With creating such a long course Floros has had to gain the permission of a number of landowners in the region to lay his track through their land and leaving both the designer and the event organisers pleading with participants and other mountain biking enthusiasts to remain off the private land.

“The local owners of the land have been really helpful in letting me put the course through their properties and we must stress to riders that they are not to ride on the land of these people before the race as it is like someone walking into your dining room and asking for a cup of tea without you even asking them in!” Floros stressed.

“There will be designated days beforehand when we will open the course for training, but until such days please would everyone respect our request and help us keep a positive relationship with the local community!”

Simon Burney, Mountain Bike Coordinator for the UCI, is fully confident in the abilities of Floros and that his team will prepare a course that will be challenging as well as exciting to ride when the world’s elite marathon riders set off at the end of June.

“Nick has proved himself to be one of the best in the world at creating challenging cross country courses which are quite ‘manufactured’, but he has a great understanding of what constitutes a fun and challenging marathon course as well,” Burney mentioned.

“Marathon racing is such a big part of the South African mountain bike scene that Nick has both organised and competed in many, many events in his career and knows what he needs to do to challenge the best in the world.”

“The UCI has great confidence in not only Nick as a course designer and builder, but of the whole organisation – lead by Alec Lenferna – who have unrivalled experience in delivering world-class cycling events,” a confident Burney added.

The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za.