UCI Mountain Bike World Championships: Six World Titles on the Line in Val di Sole
The international off-road gravity season concludes this week with the 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships for Downhill (DHI) and 4-Cross (4X), in Val di Sole, Italy. Val di Sole is located in Trentino, the northeastern region of Italy, and has a long history of playing host to mountain bike events, including the 2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, and the 2015 4X World Championships.
The 4-cross will take place first, with the timed seeding runs for Women and Men on Thursday, and the finals on Friday. The track was created for the 2008 UCI World Championships, and it is among the most stunning and challenging courses in the world. At 600 metres, the track is the longest on the 4X Pro Tour circuit. Riders compete four at a time, with the top two from each heat moving to the next round, until there are only four left to compete for the rainbow jersey. Racing takes place at night under lights before thousands of fans.
In the Women category, defending Champion Anneke Beerten (Netherlands) and former Champion Caroline Buchanan (Australia) are among the favourites. Other podium contenders include Helene Fruhwirth (Austria), Romana Labounkova (Czech Republic) and Lucia Oetjen (Switzerland).
The Men's field contains multiple podium contenders, including Czech riders Tomas Slavik and Jan Svub, Austria's Hannes Slavik, Quentin Derbier (France) and defending Champion Aiko Göhler of Germany.
The downhill competition begins on Saturday with the seeding runs and timed session for all riders, followed by the UCI World Championships finals on Sunday. Jerseys will be awarded in four categories - Junior Women and Men, Elite Women and Men.
The downhill course – called Black Snake – was upgraded in 2015 for the UCI World Cup series. At that time the track was made 300 metres longer, for a total of 2,200 metres, with a 540 metre elevation change, for an average grade of 24.5%. It offers a perfect mix between speed, spectacle and technical sections.
One note of interest, is that the race forerunners will include the legendary British downhiller Steve Peat, who retired this year and has raced every previous UCI World Championships from 1993 to 2014, and paracyclist Alessandro Avigliano. The forerunners ride the course just prior to the start of racing, to make sure the track is clear and ready for competition.
The Elite Women's competition has been dominated in recent years by one rider – defending UCI World Champion Rachel Atherton of Great Britain. Atherton just won the 2016 UCI World Cup series with a perfect score of seven victories, and is undefeated for 13 consecutive World Cups rounds. Other podium contenders include Tracey Hannah (Australia), Manon Carpenter (Great Britain), Tahnée Seagrave (Great Britain) and Myriam Nicole (France).
For the Men, it is 2011 UCI World Champion Danny Hart (Great Britain) who is on a winning streak, having won the last three World Cups. Others to watch include Aaron Gwin (USA), the 2016 UCI World Cup winner who has yet to add a world title to his palmares; Greg Minnaar (RSA), who will be looking for a fourth title; Australia's Troy Brosnan; and defending champion Loïc Bruni (France), back from injury.