The first-inner city course for mountain bikers has opened beside the Olympic velodrome – with “black run” trails for the most daring riders.
Cyclists are required to sign a consent form in case of injury before attempting the five-mile course, constructed out of the “lunar landscape” at northern end of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Bosses hope the course – which has easier “blue” and “red” trails for novice riders – will help British mountain bikers to match the success of track cyclists such as Sir Chris Hoy and Laura Trott and win gold medals.
Rob Mortlock, lead coach at the facility, now renamed the Lee Valley VeloPark, said: “We want to become the best cycling facility in the world. It would be fantastic for this venue to provide the stepping stone for future Olympians in all disciplines, not just the track.”
The opening of the course is the final part of the VeloPark and sits alongside the velodrome, a road cycling circuit and a BMX track. It was designed by one of the UK’s top trail-builders, Dafyyd Davis, who built trails such as Coed Y Brenin in Wales. Prices start at £6 (£2 on Wednesdays during school holidays).
The route takes riders on a loop across the A12. The biggest challenge is “Mount Olympus”, a nerve-shredding 5m drop down stepping stones made from concrete boulders.
Emergency alarms are positioned round the course in case of accidents. Staff have a mountain bike and golf buggy equipped with first aid equipment on standby.
Taster sessions are available to teach basic skills to novices.
“The blue trail is suitable most people who can ride a bike, right up to the more challenging black run,” Mr Mortlock said.
“Most riders come to a mountain bike taster session. If they have not already got some skills, they normally develop the key ones by the end of the session.
“Essentially the message is: don’t attempt anything you don’t think you are capable of doing. If in doubt, don’t try it.”
Team GB failed to win a mountain biking medal during the 2012 Games, when riders competed at Hadleigh farm in Essex.
Mr Mortlock said the trails would benefit riders unable to get to places such as Epping Forest during the week. “The idea is to bring four of the main cycling disciplines together in one place,” he said. “It’s quite unique to have 8km of single-track trails in central London.
“Most people are interested in the velodrome track but the mountain biking seems to be popular. I have noticed a number of people riding after work, which they probably couldn’t do if this wasn’t here.”