The Laoshan course through the eyes of Oli Beckingsale

One of GB's athletes walks us through the Laoshan mountain biking course for this year's Games

Despite missing out on the test race in Beijing back in September, Oli Beckingsale has studied the Laoshan course in great detail.

“It’s a super-tough course," he explains, "because there’s a succession of repeater climbs and a longer climb in the middle. There’s no recovery on the course at all.”

"It starts with a series of steep, short climbs followed by a tight turn. Next there are some steeper short climbs linked together so they make one longer climb, followed by a long run down to some more short climbs. It’s only 4.5km a lap and I reckon we’ll be doing 10-minute laps, I think we’ll just get dizzy at that rate. There’ll be about eight efforts per lap, and the race will be about 10 laps, so that’s 80 efforts in a race!"

The combination of heat, humidity and the intensity of the course is going to make it a real challenge, combined with the threat of pollution it meant that only eight men finished the test race.

“They’ve added a few more obstacles, like a couple of rock gardens, but nothing too testing. I think this was to make sure no one tried to race it on a cyclocross bike, which a couple of riders were threatening to do!” says Oli.

Podium predictions

For the men’s XC race, the odds-on favourite isdefending Olympic champion, Julien Absalon. The physical nature of the Beijing course favours power riders such as Absalon, and both Liam and Oli rate the dominant Frenchman’s chances.

That said, we shouldn’t rule out a battle with Spain’s Jose-Antonio Hermida and Liam Killeen could be up there, too.

This sharp climb takes the riders to the peak of the course, over 125m above sea level : this sharp climb takes the riders to the peak of the course, over 125m above sea level

Steep ascents and harsh conditions favour burly riders

In the women’s race, all eyes will be on the Chinese riders, Ying Liu & Chengyuan Ren. Also fighting to get on that top spot will be Russia’s Irina Kalentieva, Canada’s Marie-Helene Premont, Spain’s Marga Fullana and Norway’s legendary Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja, who’ll be looking for another gold to add to her collection.

Sadly, our elite women’s field has struggled to produce athletes who could be real contenders on the world stage. Now the focus is shifting on to the London 2012 Games, where plans are being put in place now to ensure that we are represented by potential contenders.

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