Is anyone else excited about the impending international sporting event, or is it just us? With athletes from all over the world, sports fans, and support crews all beginning to pile in, we cannot wait to see what the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games have in store for us. If you didn’t manage to get tickets yet, there are still some available. Plus, there are a lot of free events that you can attend.

It takes months, if not years, to prepare the city for an event like the Commonwealth Games. From the sports grounds to the transport, the infrastructure, volunteers, ticket sales. We catch up with one of the people that made the games possible: a venue creator. Simon French is the Managing Director of Dirt Art, the company that shaped the Commonwealth Games mountain bike trails in Nerang. Simon started out his working life as a nurse. His passion for mountain biking and years of volunteering eventually led him to start Dirt Art in 2008. Building the reputation of his trail designs as he moved from small local council run trails in his hometown of Hobart to international race trails. Check out what he had to say:

You have worked on projects all over Australia, from your hometown in Tasmania to Hamilton Island in Queensland and Thredbo in NSW. Which is your favourite bike park or trail that you have helped create?
I love all of our trails, and we are fortunate to have been involved in some incredible projects in a range of amazing places, so picking a favourite is hard! Our recent Maydena Bike Park project is the first park we have operated ourselves commercially, so I am particularly proud of that one.  We spent three years in planning for Maydena, so it’s been great to open the doors at the park this year.

How did you become involved with the Commonwealth Games? 
We won the government tender to develop the venue for the games, and have been working on the project for around 18 months now, which includes planning, construction and maintenance.

Have you worked on an international sporting event before?
Yes, we’ve been involved in high-level mountain bike events for a long time, both in Australia and overseas.

Do you bike yourself? 
I mountain bike myself.  I love it, but don’t get out as often as I’d like these days.

Have you ever competed in a sporting event?
I raced at a world level as a junior downhill rider around 15 years ago.  These days I race the odd event socially, but am more interested in riding for enjoyment.

When you are not working on bike trails what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 
Spending time with family and friends, riding mountain bikes, surfing, snowboarding, motorbike riding.

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What have been the challenges of creating the trail for the Commonwealth Games?
One of the biggest challenges was balancing the needs of a world-level race venue, with a desire to create a project that has a lasting legacy for local riders.  We’ve worked very hard to ensure that post-games, local riders will be left with a range of fantastic trails to enjoy.

What has been the highlight of working on this Commonwealth Games venue?
It’s been fantastic being involved in a sporting event at such a high level, particularly as we have been provided the freedom to develop the venue from scratch to suit the event.

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What inspired the design of the Commonwealth Games trail?
The trail was inspired by many things, but initially we really wanted to ensure that the trail was complementary to the natural environment of the site, as well as the existing trails and park users at Nerang. From there we focused on developing a course that would test a full range of rider skills and ability, from jumping, through to tight and technical riding.

For people who don’t follow mountain biking can you explain how a competition such as the Commonwealth Games works—what do the athletes have to do and how is the winner decided?
The Commonwealth Games (and Olympic Games) offer mountain biking in a Cross Country Olympic (XCO) format.  This racing format features riders racing in groups through multiple laps of a course between 4 – 6km in length.  The winning race time is around one and a half hours, with the winner being the first to cross the line after completing the required number of laps.

Who would you put your money on to take home the gold in April?
I’d love to see our Australian riders take the win!

Are you going to be attending any Commonwealth Games events, if so which one?
I’ll be based locally for a few weeks during the games.  I have tickets for swimming, athletics and of course, the mountain biking!

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