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Cup can boost 4X code

With the world’s best mountainbike racers headed for Pietermaritzburg later this month, the UCI MTB World Cup will once again be contested over three disciplines, two of which will feature strong local challenges, but the third, the discipline of FourCross (4X) is a sadly neglected element in local MTB circles.

While serious podium challenges can be expected in the cross country and downhill disciplines, the elite mountainbikers are debating the apparent lack of interest in the spectator-friendly 4X discipline, and not surprisingly, the lack of a local serious title challenger.

ÔÇ£As exciting as 4X is, I would have to say the main reason for it not taking off in South Africa is most likely due to the lack of interest from the riders,”┬á said Travis Browning, top Elite Downhill rider. “We have a UCI World cup standard course right here in Pietermaritzburg, as well as a few select BMX courses around South Africa as they have a very similar layout to a 4X track.

“I would say 4X appeals to riders from both BMX and Downhill disciplines. It combines the thrill of racing other competitors just like BMX, and then the technical aspect of the course which would be associated to that of a Downhill trail. In my eyes it’s a real pity 4X hasn’t taken off in SA, as I believe we have so many talented riders that would be up with the Worlds best.ÔÇØ, said Browning.

Multiple South African Elite Women’s Downhill Champion, Rika Olivier feels the problems lies in the dearth of facilities. ÔÇ£It might appear that the riders show no interest in 4X, but the real reason is that tracks are non-existent. It takes a permanent venue, specialised track design and a lot of money to maintain a track.”

“In the Cape we have small scale dual events, that are very well supported by the riders, so I don’t think it’s the riders that are the issue here, it’s more the funding of the tracks which I estimate would cost at least R300 000 for a good track, something that you would need a dedicated sponsor for,” said Olivier.

“BMX tracks are not the same as 4X at all – but is might be a start to connect with the BMX community and have a test MTB event. Maybe an MTB class at the next race.ÔÇØ

This year’s 4X course is a development of the 2009 course that was built by Phillip Saxena, and has been modified with more obstacles and challenging corners of which, course designer Kim Phillips has been working hard on.

ÔÇ£Its a lot shorter this year with a lot of tight corners, jumps and tricky obstacles that will challenge the riders and make it a lot more exciting for the spectators. All of these changes have been done according to the UCI standards,ÔÇØ said Phillips.

The track is about 850 metres long , and has about a 95m altitude drop. ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Take the spectator friendly elements of downhill, put four riders on the start line and you have 4X.

Taking it’s roots from the early two man duel slalom format races and BMX racing, 4X gets mountain biking up close and personal with the spectators and therefore attracts the masses to these events. Big jumps, big berms and lots of action mean it’s got a mass-market appeal.

The 4X event which replaced Dual Slalom in the UCI World Cup series in 2002, is made up of a track that can be super technical or have a mix of jumps and obstacles that anyone can ride, but only the more skilled riders can excel on.

As the sport has evolved 4X bikes have developed, with stronger lightweight frames and short travel suspension. ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Racers are gradually eliminated through a series of rounds and the event culminates in a four-rider final with finishing positions determining results.

Its yet another mountain bike success story with rider support from grass roots level right through to its own World Cup series. ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Spectators at the Cascades can look forward to some thrilling action on Friday 22 April , when some of the world’s best 4X riders will showcase their skills and talents on the new, shortened version of the 4X track.

Current World Rankings

Elite Men

1 Jared Graves (Australia)ÔÇ¿,┬á Tomas Slavin (Czech Republic)ÔÇ¿, Joost Wichman (Netherlands)ÔÇ¿, Michal Prokop (Czech Republic), Kamil Tatarkovic (Czech Republic)

Elite Women

1 Anita Molcik (Austria), Anneke Beerten (Netherlands)ÔÇ¿, Jana Horakova (Czech Republic) and ÔÇ¿11th Joanna Petterson (South Africa)


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