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Hadleigh Farm gearing up for Olympic mountain biking races
ALL eyes will be on the Olympic Stadium tonight for the opening ceremony of the London Games.
But at Hadleigh Farm the finishing touches to the venue for the cross-country mountain biking races will be put in place.
The site is due to be locked down for the Games next Friday before the eyes of the world watch the gruelling action on Saturday, August 11, and Sunday, August 12 — the last two days of the Games.
Fifty men and 30 women mountain bikers will test their mettle around the 5km course, with the women racing on August 11 and the men the following day.
There are no heats — there is a mass start and the races last for two hours, with the top three taking the medals in front of 3,000 spectators.
British hopes will rest on Liam Killeen and Annie Last, with Last most likely to cause an upset.
The 21-year-old rider won the Under-23 World Championships two years ago and is currently ranked sixth in the world following a successful season on the World Tour.
Killeen finished seventh at the Beijing Games four years ago and repeated the feat on the 2010 World Tour.
But injury and a subsequent loss of form have seen him slip down the rankings to his current position of 31st.
Beijing gold medalist Julien Absalon is currently ranked third on the World Tour, and won the test event at Hadleigh Farm on July 31 last year.
The Frenchman will be up against top-ranked Czech rider Jaroslav Kulhavy and Swiss world number two Nino Schurter.
Germany’s Sabine Spitz is the defending Olympic champion but faces a tougher task getting a medal this time round after falling to 12th in the world standings.
Canadian Catherine Pendrel currently leads the rankings after winning the 2011 World Championships, with Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa second and France’s Julie Bressett third.
Pendrel also won the test event at Hadleigh Farm last year, with Bressett finishing third.
But the nature of the Hadleigh Farm course, which features a series of repeated climbs rather than the larger climb usually found on World Tour courses, means an upset is on the cards in both the men’s and women’s races.
Spectators at Hadleigh Farm will be able to buy earpieces costing £10 each to listen to commentary during the races.
Commentary will also be available at the gymnastics, athletics, rowing, judo, canoe slalom, BMX, fencing, table tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, badminton and wrestling. The earpiece will work at all venues.