World Cup Comes To Outdoor Capital Of The UK

Tension and excitement is mounting in Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands, as organisers make the final preparations for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, the most prestigious and extreme competition in the international mountain biking calendar.

The exciting location of Aonach Mor, the Nevis Range and the Leanachan Forest has become a venue for mountain bike events that draw large and very enthusiastic crowds from all over the UK and the rest of the world. This year 580 of the world's elite riders [a record number of entrants, a rise of 29% on 2004] from 30 countries, together with more than 17,000 spectators and 230 print and broadcast media, will descend upon The Outdoor Capital of the UK for a spectacular fiesta of world-class mountain biking, with an expected economic benefit to the Lochaber area in excess of £1 million.

Mike Jardine from Rare Management, organisers of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup events at Fort William said: "Those who have been to the Fort William World Cup know what a great weekend the Scottish Highlands can deliver. This weekend is the final dress rehearsal for the World Championships in 2007 so we are aiming higher - larger and louder crowds, more spectacular competition and a full programme of action and entertainment in the Outdoor Capital of the UK.

"Trade teams, riders and the media have begun to arrive from all over the world to compete in the next round of this exciting competition. The atmosphere is really building. We are definitely guaranteed a storming weekend!"

Highland Council Lochaber Area Convener, Councillor Olwyn Macdonald said: "This is a really exciting weekend for Lochaber and the Highlands with the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Aonach Mor. I am very proud that we can host such an internationally prestigious

sporting event and I hope that the challenge of our landscape is an exhilarating one for all the competitors."

Fort William has successfully hosted rounds of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 (the UK's first ever World Cup Finals); firmly establishing itself as one of the best competition venues in the world with a reputation for high standards, good

organisation and excellent courses and facilities; winning seven major sporting and industry awards in four years of international competition.

Volunteers have been crucial to the success of the World Cup events and they have continually been recognised by the organisers for their hard work and commitment. This year more than 190 volunteers have been recruited from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland to work on the event. Race marshalling, course preparation and Event Village, media, medical and admin services are all areas of the event where this year's volunteers will be working.

As the crowds grow bigger each year, so too does the scale of the competition. From the building of the initial downhill track back in 1994, to the opening of the first ever World Cup standard Mountain Bike 4-Cross track in 2002; and from the first ever triple UCI World

Cup event in 2003, to the World Cup Finals in 2005 and the World Championships in 2007, mountain biking in the Outdoor Capital of the UK keeps building on its success.

In 2004 Fort William won its bid to host the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships, the single most important event in mountain biking, where the emphasis is firmly on riding for country rather than for trade teams and sponsors. It is anticipated that this

event will attract more than 40,000 spectators on the key days of competition with a direct economic benefit to Fort William and the immediate Lochaber area in excess of £2 million. Significant levels of international media coverage, including live terrestrial broadcast, that will showcase Fort William's spectacular location and the vast range of tourism opportunities open to its growing annual visitor numbers, are also expected. The World Championships will also be one of the highlights and key events of Highland 2007, the year Scotland celebrates Highland culture.

25 May 2006