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Mountain biking at the Olympics

| Blog, Fuel, What Mountain Bike | 30/07/2012 09:30am

In the new issue of What Mountain Bike (on sale July 31), we give you the lowdown on what you can look forward to when the cream of the XC mountain biking crop descend on Essex to tackle the purpose-built Olympics mountain bike course.

You can read about our Team GB contenders hoping to go for gold, Annie Last and Liam Killeen, the best places to watch the thrills and potential spills at the venue or from the comfort of your own sofa and more. Here we bring you the full interviews with the people who are responsible for building that all-important course and overseeing that the event goes smoothly.

As part of its promise to deliver the best games possible LOCOG has employed a key number of personnel to ensure that promise is delivered. For mountain biking those specific personnel have been chosen because of their great understanding and affinity to the sport and passion to help drive the Olympic project and the sport in general forward.

Martyn Salt, mountain bike manager
A key figure in the organization of a number of important events in the UK over the past decade, he was appointed mountain bike manager, joining the games back in October 2010. He explains what his job entails.

“My role really is to deliver a great race and a great experience for the athletes and all that goes with that. Now that might sound a really small aspect of the games but you’d be surprised at the amount of detail you have to work with to deliver that goal.

“Our aim has been to showcase the sport and make it look exciting to inspire a new generation and I think with this course we have that cracked. The race will be fast and dynamic and certainly not straightforward!”


Martin Seddon, course designer and builder
Martin’s exemplary qualifications as an elite mountain bike racer who competed in many World Cup races in the ’90s combined with his day job as a ground work constructor, held him in good stead as the UCI went on the hunt for the man who could take on the job of transforming, what on paper seemed like a most uninspiring venue into a fantastic showcase for the sport. He was incredibly underwhelmed when he discovered the venue was planned for the flat lands of Essex.

“To be fair when I was first asked to visit the site I was very skeptical, there are no hills in Essex! It was only when we actually got to the ridge that we could see straight away what the potential was. After a year of working on designs, contracts were signed just two weeks before we started building way back in July 2010.

“The brief was to get a 5km loop and make it difficult enough to be an Olympic course on a budget of just £80,000. In the end it turned out quite an easy task to complete in that venue. When we were scouting it out we had to ensure we could make it look good for spectators and and for TV.

“The hardest bit about the build had to be the weather. It was awful. We experienced the wettest summer since records began followed by a winter of heavy snow. But despite this we got it built in time. Over the build we manhandled 3500 ton of rock. 500 ton went into making all the rock features, while the rest we used for base stone and top grade for the track itself.

“It nearly broke me. All those late nights we put in to make sure we got it finished on time… Now I’m really looking forward to seeing the result! The most satisfying aspect of the whole job was the turn around of riders’ opinions of the course. Every one admitted it was so much harder to ride at race pace than they ever imagined. It’s brutal!”


Paul Davis, technical operations manager

Paul has over 30 years of experience in the cycle industry, with a background of racing along with organizing a number of his own successful cycling events, he was the perfect man for the hands on role as technical operations manager.

His role is a perfect balancing act of coordinating man and machine, making sure everything from the start to the finish and all the marshals in between run smoothly on the day. This includes co-coordinating a staggering 230 volunteers, 176 of which will be marshaling 88 points on the course ensuring both spectator and rider safety.

You can see coverage of both the men’s and women’s events on the BBC and live coverage on BBC red button –

You can also check out what Bike Radar thought of the course as James Costley-White went along to Hadleigh Farm for the test event back in March last year –



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