With the arrival of 2024 just weeks away, the first green shoots of the new UCI Mountain Bike World Series season are beginning to tantalise race fans the world over. The mountain bike off-season can be a long and tedious affair for those in need of a UCI World Cup fix, but with the announcement of next year's calendar came the confirmation of another busy year of bar-to-bar action and, even more tantalisingly, a host of brand-new venues.
The first debutante venue is going to be the official starting pistol too - Mairiporã in Brazil will kick things off with the opening rounds of Cross-country Short Track (XCC) and Cross-country Olympic (XCO).
Where is it?
Located one hour north of the centre of São Paulo near Brazil’s southern coast is Mairiporã, which means ‘beautiful city’. The highest point of the surrounding area is Serra da Cantareira where it reaches an altitude of just over 1100m.
Cantareira State Park protects a large portion of Sao Paulo’s water supply and has been home to many extreme sports such as paragliding and mountain biking for many years.
Has there been racing here before?
Since 2019, Mairiporã has played host to some high level Cross-country races, the most recent of which was MTB Festival 2023 which boasted an entry list full of South American UCI World Cup regulars and local talent.
What’s the track like?
The track at the Arena iMTB Bike Park that the athletes of the UCI Mountain Bike World Series will take to will be a subtly evolved version of that raced at MTB Festival. It’s a widely-taped, fast rolling course through the forest that has been designed to promote overtaking and close racing. It will suit those riders with deep reserves of horsepower and those gifted in the dark art of staying invisible amongst the pack.
What else can we expect?
Crowds! When the UCI World Cup season opener was held in Petropólis just north of Rio de Janeiro the crowd in attendance on race day was one of the biggest in the sport’s history. South America is a part of the world that loves its mountain bike racing and with the race being so close to one of the world's most populous cities, expect the fans to turn out in full force.
Who are the favourites?
It’s the opening round of the season - who knows?! Last season’s overall title winners Puck Pieterse (XCC, XCO), Luca Schwarzbauer (XCC) and Nino Schurter (XCO) will be the riders with the biggest targets on their respective backs.
Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck), still just 22 years of age, looked to be the complete package last time out with little to no weaknesses. Her ability to not only win but also to ride cleverly when not doing so to achieve maximum points was uncanny. Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV) ground it out over the course of the season and established himself on many fans' radar as the rider out front driving the pace whilst Schurter (Scott SRAM MTB Racing) remains the king of the numbers. Simply put, no other male athlete in mountain bike history has been as successful as the Swiss star and this season he has the opportunity to put his UCI World Cup overall wins tally into double digits.
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