PHOTOSHOOT: Daredevil plunge into the 'pipeline'

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The Independent Online
IT IS the two-wheeled, off-road equivalent of Formula One racing and last weekend it was the turn of a Plymouth park to host the mountain bike World Cup - an eight-round series which had already visited the United States, Portugal, Hungary and Germany.

A sweltering Sunday at Newnham Park on the edge ofDartmoor saw 193 male elite category riders, including many British hopefuls, tackle five laps of a gruelling 10-kilometre course consisting of hard climbs across open moorland, fast and narrow descents through woodland trails (complete with emergency padding on some trees), numerous river crossings and the notorious "pipeline" descent. This is a 150ft drop down an extremely steep and rock- strewn bank into a river valley with a tight chicane at the bottom.

The tricky course made for an excellent spectacle for the 20,000 strong crowd. In the clouds of dust that formed on the pipeline some riders inevitably lost control and ended up parting company with their bikes, while others seemed to glide effortlessly through the chicane and off into the woods.

The riders are all top-level athletes. Years of conditioning, strict diets and a massive lung capacity are coupled with a fierce will to win as the Australian Cadel Evans showed. The women's race was won by Laurence Leboucher, of France. Both riders are expected to compete at the 2000 Olympics.

It certainly was a great day out for the home, off-road biking fraternity, who are already looking forward to next year's event.

Copies of these photographs - and any others by The Independent's sports photographers David Ashdown, Peter Jay and Robert Hallam - can be ordered by telephoning 0171-293-2534.