Daniel McConnell is one of two Australian representatives for mountain biking

Daniel McConnell is one of two Australian representatives for mountain biking Photo: Australian Olympic Committee

Mountain Biking will be an up and down run at Tokyo 2020, with plenty of excitement along the lumpy course for the riders competing.

There are two medals available in the Tokyo 2020 Mountain Biking competition, one for men and women respectively. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

At the Olympics, Mountain Biking is the cross country discipline, rather than downhill. The event will take place at Izu track. Mountain biking was first included at the Olympics in 1996, for both men and women.

How it works

Mountain biking is completed on a varied terrain circuit, on a course that is 4.1km long.  Riders will complete a set number of laps of the course, and the first rider across the line at the end will win the gold medal.

The Tokyo course at Izu is noticeably steeper than previous courses, with 150m vertical gain and loss over the 4.1km course. The steeper parts of the courses will allow for the more powerful riders to highlight their ability to keep momentum going, and they will hope to capitalise and dominate the race.

Last time around

At Rio 2016, Nino Schurter (SUI) finished his set, winning gold after taking silver at London 2012 and bronze at Beijing 2008. He reversed his defeat to Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE), who defeated Schurter to win gold at London 2012.

Jenny Rissveds (SWE) defeated Maja Wloszczowska (POL) in a sprint to the line to take gold, and Catharine Pendrel (CAN) beat her compatriot Emily Batty by 2 seconds to take bronze. In an exciting race with the top four all coming in within 90 seconds.

Australians in tandem

Daniel McConnell is on his way to his fourth Olympics. Rebecca McConnell is on her way to her third. The couple were married in 2017, after competing in Rio, and will compete for Australia in the mountain biking at Tokyo 2020.

Both have previously medalled at the Commonwealth Games, winning bronze in 2014. Rebecca has also recently medalled at the World Championships, winning bronze at Mont Saint Anne (2019) and Leogang (2020).

Rebecca will fancy herself as a chance to win a medal at Rio 2020, with her climbing abilities likely to help her in the pursuit of the elusive medal.

Daniel is one of the experienced members of the cycling team generally, with his first appearance on an Australian team in 2002. He has improved at each of his Olympics appearances and will be hoping to do so again at Tokyo 2020.

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This time around

Each of the men’s and women’s mountain bike races will have 38 riders from 29 nations. Most riders have qualified due to the ranking of their national rankings in the UCI, with a few spots for continental and world championships.  

While some argue that there is no clear favourite, Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED) is a four-time World Champion in the Cyclocross, and previously both European and National Dutch Champion in both Cyclocross and Mountain Biking.

Interestingly, Van Der Poel has prepared for his debut Olympics with his first tilt at the Tour de France. Van Der Poel has performed incredibly well at the Tour de France, taking the prized yellow jersey as the race leader on Stage 2, and only relinquished it on Stage 5.

There are also expectations that Schurter will again come close to a medal, after winning a medal at each of the last three games.

In the women, McConnell is a threat for a medal, to finally break her hoodoo. Another rider hoping to break their hoodoo is Batty. She broke her collarbone at London 2012, and finished fourth in 2016, missing out on a medal by a matter of metres.

Defending gold medallist Rissveds will also return, and is expected to enter the race as a favourite, with her history from Rio 2016.

Nothing Flat, Nothing Easy

One of the peculiarities of the Olympic course is that the Olympic Committee has mandated that the course can have no more than 15% flat terrain over the circuit. That requirement means that the course will be constantly undulating, and the rider who is best able to maintain a rhythm will be a favourite for the gold medal.

The course also has a feed area, where on each circuit, riders can grab food and hydration to maintain their strength. It also presents an opportunities for riders to fix any mechanical issues that their bike is facing.

The men’s mountain biking race will be on 26 July, and the women’s race on the 27th.

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