20 June 2013
Pietermaritzburg’s Cascades MTB Park, venue for the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships and Masters World Championships, is taking shape nicely ahead of the 21 August starting date. A memorial to South African MTB legend Burry Stander has also been unveiled.
Stander, who finished second behind Swiss ace Nino Schurter at the UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg last year, died in a training accident in January.
Located close to the start/finish straight, the newly grassed bank, shaped to resemble a pair of angel’s wings, includes a white “ghost-bike” traditionally erected for cycling heroes.
World champion’s tribute
At the centre of the memorial is a garden, also shaped in a pair of wings, which contains a plaque with a four-line tribute penned by Pietermaritzburg local and downhill world champion Greg Minnaar that reads : “Those we love don’t go away; They walk beside us every day; Unseen, unheard but always near; Still loved, still missed and very dear.”
The memorial is the work of passionate MTB supporter Jackie Thies, mother to an eager and talented 10- year-old mountain biking daughter.
She was approached by the KZN MTB Commission to construct the memorial garden because she had established a close bond with Stander when her daughter started mountain biking as a six-year-old, and thrived on the loyal support from Stander as she progressed.
Thies plans to extend the work she has done at the site to include a picture of Stander on the base of the plague plinth, and to add two further ghost bikes covered in white flowers.
“A lot of sweat and tears went into it,” she said.
The memorial will be formally dedicated during the World Championships at the end of August.
Meanwhile, (UCI) MTB International Commissaire Joel Obodov on a recent visit to South Africa gave the event’s courses an unqualified thumbs up.
With the World Championships and Masters World Championships taking place back-to-back for the first time, Obodov looked at the courses for both events and declared himself very happy with the preparation and progress being made.
“I was fortunate to have been able to visit the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg recently and meet up with Event Director Alec Lenferna and some of his team,” said Obodov. “Alec was kind enough to show me parts of the course and how things will be set up and things are looking very good.
‘Perfect for mountain biking’
“Since the Cascades MTB Park has been used for top level international events before, there is a very good infrastructure in place already. It’s a beautiful area and perfect for mountain biking,” Obodov added.
During his visit, with cross country course designer Nick Floros as his guide, Obodov enjoyed a first-hand experience of the Masters’ cross country route and left fully satisfied with the basic structure and standard of the loop.
Despite a similar offer to ride the downhill course from designer Nigel Hicks, Obodov respectfully declined, although he did visit various sections of the course via vehicle and was impressed with what he saw there too.
“Nick Floros rode around part of the Masters XCO course with me and explained the different possibilities and all looks and it sounds very good,” said Obodov.
‘I’m no downhiller!’
“Nigel Hicks was also kind enough to offer to ride the course with me, but there was just no way. I’m no downhiller,” Obodov chuckled. “But I did still visit parts of it and it looks very challenging.”
With work on the courses still taking place and various features, including technical sections and minor tweaks still to be added or completed, Obodov and Floros discussed the various alterations still in the pipeline at length and swapped ideas around the work to be done.
“It was great to show Joel around sections of the courses, especially the Masters’ cross country route, and he seemed very happy with what we’ve put together thus far,” said Floros.
“We’re very happy with the basic loop that we’ve put together for the Masters’ cross country course, but there are quite a few smaller technical sections that we’re still working on, so it is definitely a work in progress at this stage,” Floros said.
“We’re going to be adding a couple of rocky outcrops that the guys will have to weave between. There will be one or two more bull runs added as well, which, together with series of logs, gap jumps and a few small rock gardens, will hopefully make it a good mountain biking course.
“We’re confident that by the time we’re finished the bits and pieces we’re still working on, we would have produced a course that is worthy of seeing a world champion overcome whilst also offering some easier, slower, alternatives to the average Joe just looking to be a part of the event,” he reckoned.
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