Olympic mountain bike course ready

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The Independent Online

The Olympic mountain bike course, complete with its big technical rock drops to challenge the world's best riders, has been finished.

Liam Killeen, perhaps Britain's best hope for a medal in the 5.1km race, joined team mates David Fletcher, Kenta Gallagher and Lily Matthews in the first ride out of the course.

The rider, from Malvern, Worcestershire, who won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, said: "The excitement of competing in a home Games is building fast and seeing the finished course whets the appetite even more.

"It's a challenging course that will bring out the best in everyone and should make for a fantastic race for both the riders and spectators."

Building work at the course at Hadleigh Farm in Essex began last July. Up to 500 tonnes of rock and 3,500 tonnes of crushed stone were used.

Up to 100 riders will be invited to the test event scheduled for July 31 and 50 men and 30 women riders will compete at the Olympics.

The top riders will take around 90-105 minutes to finish the undulating course, in which each lap includes an elevation change of about 107 metres.

Martyn Salt, London 2012's mountain bike manager, said: "It needs to be physically demanding. What is demanding here is that we are not on the flat so there is no rest for mind or body.

"If you come (to see the race) you are going to see a gold medal winner and the riders will be racing for an hour and a half at full pelt."

Unlike most mountain bike courses, this 550-acre site is in open hillside rather than in a forest.

The course, on Salvation Army-owned farmland, has been rubber-stamped by international governing body the UCI, which had not been happy with the difficulty at an earlier venue choice of the Weald Country Park.

The course hosts two days of Olympic mountain biking on August 11 and 12.

Ticket prices range from £20-£45 with some discounts, such as the Pay Your Age scheme available.