Innerleithen set for 3,000 spectators at big weekend

THIS weekend, the eyes of the mountain bike world will be focused firmly on Innerleithen.

The iXS European Downhill Cup, sponsored by BT Infinity, rolls into the Tweed Valley this week for the only UK round of Europe’s premier downhill mountain bike series.

Running over four days, from today until Sunday, the world’s best male and female downhill racers will pit their skills against each other at the spiritual home of the UK downhill scene.

A number of fringe events will keep spectators and riders entertained and there will even be an appearance by the Olympic Torch.

This is the biggest downhill race in the UK outside the World Cup at Fort William with more than 300 competitors racing on a specially constructed one-off track through Traquair Forest to the sensational finish arena, watched by several thousand spectators.

Many of the world’s best riders will compete, coming from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa, the Czech Republic and including the Swedish National Downhill team. They will compete against local heroes Lewis Buchanan and Ruiraidh Cunningham for the top honours and prize fund on their home course.

Duncan Nisbet of organisers Innerleithen MTB Racing said: “This year we are focusing on the expected 3,000 spectators just as much as the riders. The event finish arena will be the focus for competitors and spectators alike, with lots to do, see, buy and try.

“The weekend will include a film night, dual slalom and pump track competitions and a mini downhill event for under-16s. Free entry for spectators over the three race days gives access to all the action as well as on-site catering, kids’ skills area and trade stands. There really is something for everyone.”

The programme of events starts tonight with the Go Pro Film Night showcasing some local riding and filming talent. Earlier in the day, the Olympic Torch passes through Innerleithen on its relay round the UK.

The main event is a downhill race with uplift service for riders, and kicks off with a practice session tomorrow, followed by the official launch party in the evening.

Saturday sees further practice and qualifying for the main race. For the kids, there is a mini downhill competition during the day for 10 to 16-year-olds. The day finishes with the Fetish Dual Slalom competition in the evening (free entry). Both these events are ideal for spectators as the action comes thick and fast.

Saturday also sees the Innerleithen Pipe Band Championships take place in the town and a parade of the massed pipes and drums, accompanied by downhill race competitors, will go along Innerleithen High Street in the early evening.

Sunday will see the final practice and race runs for the riders, followed by the prize presentations. This is the culmination of the whole weekend and spectators are advised to arrive early to be sure of a good vantage point on the track or in the finish arena.

The racing will be fierce and the action intense with riders seeded according to their times on Saturday, with the fastest riders looking to drive their competition from the hot seat as they enter the finish arena.

Presentations will take place on the podiums to top off a weekend of extreme sports action and entertainment.

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