Work has started on the Olympic cross-country mountain bike course being constructed in Essex for the 2012 Games.
The 5.1km loop is being built at Hadleigh Farm, a 550-acre site near Benfleet which is owned by the Salvation Army. According to Games organisers there are two “major hill areas”, separated by a valley which will create the technical climbs for the course.
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “Against a stunning backdrop of Hadleigh Castle and the Thames Estuary, the course is being created in harmony with the natural contours of the parkland, to test the mettle of the world’s best mountain bike riders."
The Olympic cross-country racing will take place over the weekend of 11-12 August 2012, with the women's race on the Saturday and the men's on the Sunday. Around 20,000 tickets will be available for each day.
The track is classed as a "temporary" facility on the London 2012 website, but organisers say that after the Games they "will work closely with our partners including Essex County Council and the Salvation Army to explore what course will be left in place for future use".
Hadleigh Farm was confirmed as the venue for the Olympic cross-country races in August 2008 after the UCI (International Cycling Union) deemed that the original planned venue, The Weald Country Park, wasn't challenging enough.
The decision to hold the competition in Essex drew criticism from many quarters, including Welsh Minister for Heritage Alun Ffred Jones, who said he was disappointed organisers hadn't looked beyond "one of England's flattest counties" for the mountain biking venue.
For more information about the new course, visit www.essexlegacy.org.
New cycling facilities elsewhere, too
In other news, British Cycling have spent over £1 million of Sport England cash on building a new closed road circuit and BMX track in the West Midlands, another circuit on Tameside, and a state-of-the-art pavilion building at Hillingdon circuit in West London.
The first new circuit, at Stourport Sports Club, is 6m wide and just under a mile long, with 10 bends including two very tight and technical corners. It includes some shallow but long climbs and descents, and two short cuts enable the creation of six different length laps. It will host a regular league, with a focus on encouraging youngsters from local schools to get into cycling. British Cycling’s Whole Sport Plan (WSP) provided £448,000 for the project, with match funding from Wyre Forest District Council.
The new BMX track down the road in Redditch opened last week and is home to the Redditch Premiers club. It has been designed to be a world-class venue, with the intention of hosting major competitions in future years. British Cycling contributed £230,000, with Redditch Borough Council matching the funding at a local level.
Redditch BMX track has been designed to test the ability of the best international riders
The other circuit, at Richmond Park in Tameside, is the first purpose-built venue of its type in the Manchester area, and hosted its first race on 15 June. This flat 1km-long circuit has two 200m straights, with twists and turns at both ends. Floodlighting has been installed, along with a bike shed and car park. British Cycling contributed £300,000 of WSP funding, with Tameside Council also backing the project.
The new clubhouse at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit in west London, which is due to open later this month, will contain race administration and coaching facilities along with a new refreshment room. It also has a storage area for event equipment and rooms available for meetings and club usage. The aim is to set up a major school-use programme. £350,000 of WSP funding is supporting the project.
Ian Drake, CEO of British Cycling, said: “These new facilities represent a major development in our efforts to bring excellent modern cycling facilities to local communities across Britain at a time when cycling is booming and the demand for venues to enjoy the sport is higher than ever before. These facilities will offer people of all ages and abilities an opportunity to enjoy cycling in a safe, controlled and traffic-free environment, supporting the growth of our sport at the grassroots and helping us develop future cycling stars.”
Stourport Cycle Circuit hosts Wyre Forest Cycle Racing Club training and Go-Ride sessions