Australia hasn't hosted a round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup since the race series stopped in Canberra in 2008, but from 25 April, more than 400 of the sport's best cross-country (XCO), downhill (DHI) and eliminator (XCE) riders will descend on Cairns, in the north of Queensland.
Hailed as the ‘Rumble in the Rainforest’, the Cairns leg of the World Cup is the second of nine rounds in the series. The racing will take place over three days in the World Heritage-listed Smithfield Rainforest, which hosted MTB World Championships in 1996.
The iconic Jacob's Ladder section in Smithfield Rainforesy
Tim Sheedy, Cycling Australia’s Technical Director for Mountain Biking, told us that a lot of the downhill course, the Glens Fall gravity run (named after renowned trail builder Glen Jacobs of World Trail), was similar to how it was back in 1996. "A lot of the old features are still intact," he said. "What has changed in the past 20 years are the trail building techniques, and Glen Jacobs is the first to admit he is a very different trail builder these days than [he was] when he built the course in 1996.”
According to Sheedy, the downhill course is faster as a result of those trail building techniques.
One significant change is that the XCO course has been shortened from 10km (as it was in 1996), to 5km per lap.
“In 1996, riders would take 2.5 hours to finish. This year they are expected to complete the course in 1.5 hours. While the XCO course is different, it will still feature Cadel's [Evans] section and Jacob’s Ladder," said Sheedy.
Cycling Australia recently released previews of the new XCO course, the first of which can be seen here:
Video: Cairns MTB World Cup XCO course preview
As well as the World Cup , race two and four of the Real Insurance XCM (Marathon) Series will take place at Joyce as part of the Australian XCM Championships on 6 April, and the scenic Atherton Tablelands (100km south west of Cairns) on 25 April. The Tablelands Classic, offers a 50 and 100km option and is expected to attract more than 200 riders and an estimated 25,000 spectators.
“Some places are known for the surf and some places for their snow, Cairns is known for its mountain biking,” said Sheedy quoting Jacobs. “And with the Ride Cairns program developed by Tourism Tropical North Queensland, which is heavily investing in the sport, combined with the World Cup will invigorate the sport the same way it invigorated the sport in 1996.”
For a complete schedule of the weekend's events, click here.
Want to see what downhill racing was like in Cairns in 1996? Check out the video below:
Video: 1996 mountain bike World Championship in Cairns