As the popularity of mountain bike racing continues to grow and diversify, more and more new nations are making their debut on the UCI Mountain Bike World Series calendar. The latest of which is Poland in the form of the highly rated Bielsko-Biała which will see the gravity athletes of downhill and enduro compete under the same roof for the first time of the year.
Already a mountain biking mad corner of Europe, the trails there are legendary in Poland. Now it’s time to let the fastest riders in the world loose on them during a jam packed week of flat-out action.
Where is it?
Bielsko-Biała is situated in southern Poland two hours west of the city of Kraków. Around 166,000 people call Poland’s 22nd biggest city home but it is to the south of the main urban area where the trail gold lies. The Beskid Mountains are home to the Enduro Trails network which are amongst the country’s most famous mountain bike venues.
Has there been racing here before?
The venue of Bielsko-Biała is one a hot spot for national-level racing. Most recently the Polish national enduro championships were held there in 2022 - Katarzyna Burek and Damian Konstanty took top honours.
As far as downhill racing is concerned it’s going to be a completely blank slate. The Enduro Trails network has really ridden the wave of popularity of stage racing and a brand-new track is now being prepared for the second round of the UCI Downhill World Cup.
What’s the course like?
As mentioned, the downhill course is still under development so it remains to be seen what the talented local team come up with. The Enduro Trails network is famed for its high speed but natural terrain with things erring towards the steep and technical so indications are good.
The enduro course will be one of the most technical of the year. Like previous rounds held in the Tweed Valley and Finale Outdoor Region, the sheer amount of trails available for them to build a course from is almost boundless. The team in Bielsko-Biała are also well-versed in working out what combinations work well and are toughest when it comes to race course design.
What else can we expect?
This is a part of the world that has a thriving local mountain bike community yet is appearing amongst the top tier of international racing for the first time. It’s a huge moment in Polish mountain bike history and so it’s easy to predict plenty of fanfare and a crowd to match.
Amazingly, it will be the third new venue out of the opening five rounds across both formats. When it comes to Gravity alone, it will be the first of four venues to host both formats; Downhill and Enduro giving fans of descending a hectic week of events, signings and chances to meet their heroes.
Who are the favourites?
Slawomir Lukasik (Yeti Fox Racing Shox) is undoubtedly one of Poland’s biggest mountain bike stars alongside the Godziek brothers on the freeride side of the sport. Lukasik’s teammate Richie Rude, whose physical strength and penchant for searing race speed he mirrors so admirably, spent the final two rounds of the UCI Mountain Bike World Series aboard the turquoise brand's latest downhill bike. Will we see his Polish stablemate on a big bike come Bielsko-Biała? Or will he remain committed to enduro? Whichever, Lukasik will be roared home by a no doubt partisan crowd.
Also, this will be the first opportunity for many Polish fans to get trackside and see their heroes in action and as a result you can expect just about every rider, not just the big names, to feel warmly at home throughout the week.
The UCI Mountain Bike World series will be hosting both the UCI Downhill World Cup and UCI Enduro World Cup in Bielsko-Biala, Poland on the 17 - 19 May, 2024. You can find out more here.