The Czech Republic round of the UCI Cross-country World Cup is amongst the most famous and is a dyed-in-the-wool fan and rider favourite. The track through the densely forested Vysočina Arena remains unique in style on the calendar and the crowd that flock to line it are amongst the most raucous in mountain biking.
Often the opening round of the season, Nové Město na Moravě will this year represent the third round of the endurance calendar. Fast, frenetic and no stranger to a bit of precipitation it will be the first well-known quantity in terms of track design of the season. Here’s everything that you need to know:
Where is it?
The stadium itself is in the centre of the Czech Republic, just over an hour northwest of one of its biggest cities, Brno. It is just outside of the centre of the town of Nové Město na Moravě, a town in Žďár nad Sázavou District in the Vysočina Region. Just under 10,000 people reside there.
The Vysočina Arena itself has hosted some of the biggest biathlon contests in Europe and offers state-of-the-art event infrastructure.
Has there been racing here before?
Yes. A lot! Since its debut in 2011, Nové Město na Moravě has seen some of the classic moments of modern Cross-country play out around its famous track. Nino Schurter (SRAM Scott MTB Racing) won here at the second time of asking in 2012 and since then, only four riders have ever beaten him in the Cross-country Olympic distance race. One of whom was one of Czech cycling’s most famous stars; Jaroslav Kulhavý. The former Olympic Champion’s attack on Nino Schurter on one of the tracks arrow-straight climbs in 2015 is one of XCO’s most famous moments.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Ineos Grenadiers) won her debut UCI Cross-country Olympic World Cup here in 2015, whilst still young enough to compete in the U23 category. It signalled her arrival as one of the sports biggest names. Puck Pieterse (Alpecin Deceuninck) achieved similar status here with her debut elite level victory in 2023.
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) is undefeated around Nové Město na Moravě.
What’s the course like?
Nové Město na Moravě perhaps best resembles the fast-flowing technicality that mountain bikers all over the world seek out every weekend, and that’s why the pro’s love it. It’s a high intensity, distilled burst of all that is fun on a mountain bike.
The climbs are steep but short and the descents are fast and reward risk and line choice. There are drop offs, huge rock gardens and even a couple of sets of double jumps along the way alongside a literal grandstand finish in the heart of the arena. Weather has often been a factor over the years which just makes the roots of the Vysočina Arena all the more treacherous. In short, it’s a course that rewards the best mountain biker in attendance.
What else can we expect?
The opening rounds of the 2024 season, back-to-back contests in Brazil, are an unknown quantity for the majority of UCI World Cup racers. Nové Město na Moravě represents the exact opposite. This is a track and venue that is very much a ‘known quantity’. As a result, it will offer those whose season didn’t get off to the start that they had hoped for a ray of familiar light. The opening rounds will be fascinating but it’s in the Czech Republic where the battle in the overall will become very real.
Who are the favourites?
So much of who the favourites for the weekend in Nové Město na Moravě will depend on what happens in Brazil beforehand. That said, there are a couple of standouts before we even get there. Reigning UCI World Champion Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) is undefeated in the Vysočina Arena. It’s an Olympic year so a lot will depend on various riders' schedules but if Pidcock is there, he’ll be in the running. With five wins in the Czech Republic (amongst 10 top three performances), Nino Shurter is also a safe bet to be in amongst it. All five of those wins came between 2013 and 2019 and were punctuated only by two second places.
Puck Pieterse (Alpecin Deceuninck) will be in a similar position but her debut victory there last season spring boarded her into being one of the biggest names in XCO. That kind of victory and the confidence that it will inspire will be colossal.
Nové Město na Moravě will be back in 2024 on the 24 – 26 May, you can find out more here.
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