Rio 2016: A look at reigning mountain bike Olympic Champions
The London 2012 Olympic Games capped an incredible 12 months of success for France's Julie Bresset. Going into the Olympics, the young French rider was Under-23 UCI World Champion and had dominated the UCI World Cup season until deciding to opt out of the last two rounds to concentrate on her Olympic campaign. It would appear to have been a good decision. On the day of the Olympic race, she quickly opened a gap on the rest of the field and was never challenged as she rode to victory, becoming the youngest ever Olympic Champion in the discipline. Bresset finished over one minute ahead of defending champion Sabine Spitz (GER), with American Georgia Gould taking bronze.The following month, the young French rider went on to win her first Elite world title, an achievement she repeated in 2013.
Unfortunately, Bresset will not defend her title in Rio as she recovers from glandular fever.
After abandoning in Athens 2004, and finishing 18th in Beijing 2008, Jaroslav Kulhavy landed gold at his third Olympic Games, London 2012. It was clear before the race that he would be a force to be reckoned with, having won five rounds and the overall title of the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. The Olympic race in London quickly came down to a two-way battle between Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) and Nino Schurter (SUI), after two-time defending champion Julien Absalon of France had to drop out with mechanical problems. Kulhavy and Schurter rode neck-and-neck throughout the race until the Czech rider jumped past his opponent before the final corner, crossing the line only a few metres in front. Italy's Marco Fontana took bronze.
Schurter, Kulhavy and Absalon took first, second and third places respectively at this year’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and are, once again, the three favourites for Rio.