And why should I care?
The Olympics is the Champions League for mountain biking, giving our sport the most coverage it ever sees — 90% of the UK population watched at least 15 minutes of Games coverage on the BBC.
Chances are the, when the man on the Clapham Omnibus thinks of mountain biking, this is what he’s picturing. This is why we should care, it’s the world stage.
A tougher question.
The Swiss racing machine that is Nino Schurter is hot favourite to get Olympic gold and avenge his defeat in London 2012 where he was outsprinted by Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic.
Schuter’s compatriot Jolanda Neff looks set fare to make it to the top step in the women’s category.
The Nick Floros-designed course on Flag Mountain in the Deodoro Olympic Park bears a similarity to the Hadleigh Farm track and will favour all-round technical skills and endurance, along with punchy climbing — something Schurter has in abundance.
But so does his arch rival Julien Absalon, who clearly has been honing his technical riding with the help of his enduro-racing brother Remi.
Reigning Olympic champion Kulhavy recovered from a nasty wrist injury that required him to race at the Albstadt World Cup in a carbon brace and, although not as predictable as his two main rivals, he has his eyes on the main prize.
“I have lost two months preparation because of my injury in March, but I am coming to top form and the Olympics is one of my main goals,” he said. “The wrist is no problem now, and the main thing is to defend my title. There is still space for preparation for the World Champions too and these are my two peaks.”
Will it be a repeat of London then?
The London 2012 race will be remembered for it’s epic four-way fight between Schurter, Kulhavy, Burry Stander and Marco Fontana, the Italian racer whose seatpin broke in the final phase of the battle leaving him with a bronze medal for his efforts. And featuring a similar course Rio could well be a similar ding-dong battle.
Video: Watch Julien Absalon race a full lap of the 2016 Rio Olympic mountain biking course
What’s the course like?
The course is built to be TV and spectator-friendly and as such offers little shade. The climb to the highest point is 1 kilometre, which according to the organisers, makes it one of the longest XC ascents in the World. Dual lines, ‘Flip Flop’ obstacles and rock gardens make the track reminiscent of Hadleigh.