All the latest 2016 Rio Olympics mountain biking info.

Saturday 20 August

Women’s Cross Country
12:30hrs (16:30hrs UK time)
Duration approx 01:45

Sunday 21 August

Men’s Cross Country
12:30hrs (16:30hrs UK time)
Duration approx 01:45


Mountain biking was introduced to the Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta. Unlike some other recently-added sports, the Olympic mountain biking titles are much valued by professional riders. The Olympic gold has quickly become an important and significant thing to have on your CV as a cross country racer.

The very nature of the Olympics being only once every four years means that an Olympic medal is pretty much a once in a lifetime chance. You can’t really be classed as one of the best XC racers ever unless you have an Olympic medal – preferably a gold one. The Olympics are like the annual World Champs turned up to 11.

The racers in the MTB Olympic events will be absolutely flogging themselves stupid to get on the podium. This means we can be pretty much guaranteed a decent spectacle.

Around 25,000 spectators will be lining the course so the atmosphere should be pretty amazing too – certainly much larger than any other XC race.

The uniquely intense occasion often has an unpredictable effect of the competitors with some favourites crumbling and some relative unknown riders ending up on the podium.

How long does it last?

The race organisers intend the race to last anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours.

How do you win?

The winner is the first rider to complete a set number of laps. Simple as that.

Gridded mass start. Riders will be seeded into a starting grid according to their current UCI ranking.

A good start is crucial as overtaking during the race is extremely difficult.

Which Team GB riders should you look out for?

Er, well. There’s only one! Grant Ferguson. And even he only recently received his place after a few places were unclaimed by other countries’ squads.

That’s not to say that Ferguson is a poor rider undeserving of a place. Far from it. On the day he may even finish in the top ten. It’s arguably more the fault of British Cycling that Great Britain had no spots before this late ‘wildcard’.

The real shame is that there’s no female MTB competitor. British Cycling needs to sort its act out really.


What will the course be like?

A lap of the course is 5.4km. Competitors will do a number of laps. The exact number of laps is still TBC but races will be around 40-50km long for men and 30-40km for women.

It will be very artificial, manmade but very varied and technically demanding. An Olympic mountain bike circuit cannot have more than 15 per cent of flat terrain. This results in racing that features strength bursts on climbs and impressive speeds on descending sections. It all counts.

Recent Olympic courses tend to get loads of flak from the MTBing public because of their artificial nature but the fact of the matter is that the manmade design of the course makes it easier to get better TV footage.

The on-the-ground spectators benefit too. For example, spectators standing at the highest point (on Flag Mountain) will be able to see 85 to 90 per cent of the course.

Having said that, the Rio course in the Deodoro Olympic Park does actually look like it’s got some good challenging aspects to it. It certainly looks lots better than the gravel path-fest of London 2012.

Ironically one of the best ‘natural’ bits was only unearthed during the construction of an artificial section. The Rio Rocks section is a testing rocky section with a jump off at the end.

There’s another rocky section, this time entirely manmade, called Downtown that’s not quite as steep but looks very awkward to pedal through at speed.

There’s a 1km long climb up a hill called Flag Mountain. It’s not overly steep so it should help the bigger riders stay with the flyweight climbers.

rio_40_2_paulomumia (1)

One section of the course is called Rio 40 Degrees – a daunting looking ‘staircase’ of logs pitched at 40 degrees but its name also deliberately refers to the Brazilian weather. But actually August in Brazil is actually more like 25 degrees. Which will be much better for the North American and Northern European competitors.

Who’s going to win?

At the moment a specific list of who’s riding is not available so this is all supposition at the mo. But anyway…

The men’s race should be a two horse race between the two giants of men’s XC – Nino Schurter (Switzerland) and Julien Absalon (France). No one else has won a World Cup race other than these two since well, pretty much as long as anyone can remember! But London 2012 gold medallist Jaroslav Kulhavý shouldn’t be ignored.

In the women’s race things are a bit more open. Current world no.1 ranking is Denmark’s Annika Langvad. A lot of people will be tipping Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff for the win however. But let’s not forget that previous Olympic champ Sabine Spitz (Germany) is still more than capable.

>>> Everything you need to know about the road and track cycling Olympic events

Current champs from London 2012

Men: Jaroslav Kulhavý (Czech Republic)
Women: Julie Bresset (France)

Previous winners

2008 Beijing
Men: Julien Absalon (France)
Women: Sabine Spitz (Germany)

2004 Athens
Men: Julien Absalon (France)
Women: Gunn-Rita Dahle (Norway)

2000 Sydney
Men: Miguel Martinez (France)
Women: Paola Pezzo (Italy)

1996 Atlanta
Men: Bart Brentjens (Netherlands)
Women: Paola Pezzo (Italy)

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