THERE'LL be gold in them thar hills when Commonwealth Games cycling action comes to Bolton next year.

For the laurels in the road races for both men and women are destined to go to the riders who can cope with tough climbs. Final details of the courses for both the cycling road races and mountain biking have still to be announced by Games organisers. But already it is known that the road races at Rivington will not be cycling for softies.

A spokesman for the Manchester-based British Cycling Federation said: "It will certainly be one of the most challenging courses of any Commonwealth Games. The location is superb."

The 182 kilometre road race for men and 91 kilometre road race for women will be multiple lap events around the Rivington area and every lap will include lung-bursting climbs in a landscape where the Lancashire plain rises sharply towards the West Pennine Moors.

The events will provide some of the best conditions for spectators of any cycling event ever held in Britain. The plan is for the men to battle for the medals over 16 laps of a course of just over 11 kilometres.

The women will ride the same course for 11 laps.

Bolton Council leader, Councillor Bob Howarth, said: "The steep hills rising up to Rivington Pike and the Winter Hill moors are what give the whole area such dramatic beauty. I doubt that the riders will have much chance to savour the scenery, but the events will give the spectators a wonderful taste of the action as TV cameras send pictures of the races around the world."

Details of the individual time trial in which competitors ride solo against the clock have also to be announced. But the distance will be 46 kilometres for men and 30.5 kilometres for women over laps of a slightly less demanding course than the road racers.

The mountain bike courses for men and women will be in the hills above Rivington, but planning of the courses has been delayed because huge areas of land have been made out of bounds by the foot and mouth crisis.

It will be the first time that cross country mountain biking has been included in a Commonwealth Games. The sport was successfully trialled in the 1996 Olympic Games.

The mountain biking will take place on the second day of the Games, Friday, July 26 and the road racing and time trials will be on Saturday, July 27 and Saturday, August 3.