CAIRNS will return to the world mountain bike family today after an absence of 18 years when the UCI World Cup begins at Smithfield.
Once regarded as a leading destination in the sport, mountain biking fell off Cairns’ radar after hosting the World Championships in 1996.
Memories of that event will resurface today for those that have worked hard ever since to see the sport’s elite return.
And Cairns stars Mick and Tracey Hannah are now among them, the no-fuss pair in the running to win the men’s and women’s elite downhill event.
Australian World Champion Paul van der Ploeg will be the man to beat in today’s Cross Country Eliminator final.
The Olympic Cross Country, in which Tour de France champion Cadel Evans first left his mark at Cairns’ 1996 event, will close out the proceedings on Sunday.
Rain has turned the Smithfield Rainforest into a muddy, slippery descent, riders flooding social media with photos of their encounters during yesterday’s training run.
But none were complaining, all ready to get dirty in front of thousands of spectators today.
•Both the Downhill and Cross Country Olympic courses will be accessible from the event centre. There will be a ‘live site’ (Dougie’s Bridge) on the Cross Country course with vendors and toilets.
•Spectators should bring their walking shoes and be prepared for a hike to see the action.
•The Cross Country Eliminator course will be entirely visible from the event centre. Paul van der Ploeg, the Australian World Champion, will be competing in this event.
•The Downhill finish and some exciting sections of the Cross Country course will be visible from the main event centre which will have a big screen with footage from the course, vendors, MCs, a bar and the World Cup Expo where people can mingle with the riders and check out all the latest equipment and mountain biking gear.
BEST SPOTS TO WATCH DOWNHILL
Alien Tree and the Rock Garden: Deep in the rainforest where DH dreams are made or broken.
Barker’s Bend: The course opens up for the first time out of Alien Tree and top speeds are reached.
Paw Paws: A long hike up past the XCO live sit and Ocean View to the fastest section on the DHI course, before the riders disappear back into Vines.
Wally’s Runout and Ronning’s Ramp: Pedestrian access from the event centre to the first sightings of the riders as they appear out of the rainforest.
Vemass: A 4x style technical section, who’ll roll them and who’ll gap them?
Rodeo drop: Now you see them, now you don’t as they riders come from nowhere to negotiate Rodeo Drop.
Mini Vemass: The last interruption before the dash to the line.
BEST SPOTS TO WATCH THE XCO
Vemass: Lots of different ways to attack this one – who’ll take it on or play it safe?
Rodeo Drop and Wallaby Track: Riders reappear after leaving the event centre to go over the edge of Rodeo Drop, then pick up speed down the Track towards Python Steps.
Whiskers O’Flaherty: The bottom section of the climb that runs all the way to Ocean View. Watch for the ones with plenty in their legs to make a move.
Dougie’s Bridge: The XCO live site where you can use the facilities, grab a meal or drink under some shade and watch as riders go up Mynda’s switchbacks the down the Crocslide before disappearing into Jacobs Ladder.
Ocean View: The top of the climb. An all-day-long breeze hits you straight off the ocean and riders start readying for the descent.
Mini Vemass: A little version of Vemass to contend with as riders dash for the line.