Gilt-edged field turns out to put Rio 2016 mountain bike course through its paces
On Sunday 11 October, the X-Park at the Deodoro Olympic Complex played host to the Aquece Rio International Mountain Bike Challenge, the sport’s official test event for Rio 2016.
Over 80 cyclists from 32 countries competed in the men’s and women’s competitions, over seven and six laps respectively of the challenging 5.4km course at the X-Park’s newly constructed Mountain Bike Centre, just as they will do next summer.
The men’s competition featured a high-quality field that included the Olympic gold medallists from the last three editions of the Games, as the Czech Republic's Jaroslav Kulhavy, who won the men's gold at London 2012 pitted his skills against France's Julien Absalon, who took gold at both Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004. Further bolstering the competition levels was reigning world champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland.
In the end, it was the in-form Swiss who took first place in what was a high octane contest in which the newly completed course passed with flying colours. Schurter was followed by France’s Maxime Marotte, while Andrea Tiberi of Italy secured the bronze. The 35-year-old Absalom finished in fourth place, just over two minutes behind the winner.
“I'm really stoked about winning the Olympic test event in Rio,” tweeted Schurter after his victory. “The hot weather conditions were a big challenge. [I’m] looking forward to coming back here next year. #huntforglory.”
Meanwhile, the women’s competition also boasted a top-class field that included Norway's experienced Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa who claimed Olympic gold at Athens 2004. Also due to compete was reigning world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France, but she was a last-minute withdrawal.
Italy’s Eva Lechner – a veteran of the last two editions of the Olympic Games, and more recently a silver medallist at the 2014 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships – made the most of Ferrand-Prevot’s absence to clinch gold. She was joined on the podium by Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska (silver) and Jenny Rissveds of Sweden (bronze).
Leading the charge for the local athletes were Henrique Avancini and Raiza Goulão, who finished fifth and 11th respectively in the men’s and women’s competitions.
A week earlier, the X-Park had played host to a BMX test event in which the competition was shortened due to heavy rainfall. Columbia’s Mariana Pajón and Edzus Treimanis of Latvia won the women’s and men’s golds respectively.
With the road cycling test event having taken place back in August, cycling can now look forward to the test event for the track events which will take place at Rio’s new Olympic Velodrome in March next year.