It's a 5.4km lap featuring jumps shaped like flip-flops. No really.
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 fairly 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.
Good for spectators
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.
2016 Olympic course designer Nick Floros: “The first tracks [at Atlanta 1996 Olympics] were very, very basic, there was not too much construction. Then London set the bench-mark for having a very spectator-friendly course and the riders really enjoyed it. The lay of the land allowed for spectators to see a large portion of the track, whereas traditional courses are in wooded areas with far less visibility. The beauty of Rio is that spectators can stand at the highest point (on a hill opposite the grand stand) and see 85 to 90 per cent of the course.”
Course designer Nick Floros: “I wanted to come up with a Brazilian flavour and flip-flops are something that everyone in Brazil has. You need to give the course its own character and a bit of local identity, and balance that with something that works well for the riders.”
The Rio Rocks
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 Degrees
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.