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Olympic MTB: XC Mountain Bike Race for 2021 Tokyo Olympics — who to watch

Thomas Pidcock RedbullBartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
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At the Olympic Cross country event Monday, July 26th in Tokyo, there will be fireworks — that’s a guarantee. Both the men’s and women’s races have multiple riders that can hammer away with the gold. The Izu MTB course is more technical than Olympic courses of the past, and with rain in the forecast, this has all the makings of a heart-pounding watch.

Get stoked for action as we get to know a bit about the Izu park course. Then meet the top 5 riders of the men and women field and why they can grab the gold.

Jordan Sarrou after winning the World Title in OXC MTB
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Tokyo Olympic MTB course details

IZU Sport complex in Tokyo Japan

The Izu MTB Course is man-made right near the velodrome in the sports complex. The course boasts many features, including big rock gardens, drops, and lots of rocks — lots. The most prominent downhill rock feature looks like something from a proper downhill course, with car-size boulders to match — see video for details.

If the rain comes, those rocks and the grass on the course will be a new element that could make or break it for some riders —  the World Cups have been excellent preparation for a muddy race.


The men and women will both roll a 4km (2.5 miles) lap with around 180 m (590 ft) of climbing in each. Right now, we’re expecting around 7-9 laps for the complete race (around 90 minutes), but weather and course conditions will have the final say.

Though the course is very spectator friendly, most spectators have been banned due to the state of emergency issued as a result of COVID. Either way — cross country racing for the 2021 Olympics looks to be the most exciting yet. We are hoping for excellent TV coverage from the crews and lots of heartfelt racing from the start.

Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup, Nino Schurter - 7x World Champion N1NO 2018 Swiss XC Worlds mountain bike
Men’s Cross Country Mountain Bike

If you’ve been watching the coverage on Red Bull TV and the OXC World Cups — you know that this race will be one for the history books. On July 26th, 50 men will toe the tine at Izu MTB park, but only three will come home with medals — one with gold.
There are so many riders that could be victorious for the men’s cross country; here are the top 5 riders we feel have the best chance at gold.

Top 5 for Men’s Olympic Cross Country Mountain Bike

Syncros Silverton SL 30mm internal one-piece full carbon XC MTB wheels, Nino Schurter Scott-SRAM Racing, team camp portrait
teamcamp photos by Martin Steffen
  • Name: Nino Schurter
  • Age: 35
  • Country: Switzerland
  • UCI Rank:2
  • Bike: Scott Spark
  • Why they can win: Nino is no stranger to the Olympics, and as returning gold from 2016 and silver medalist in 2012 — this guy is ready to roll. Coming off a less than stellar 2020 season, Nino is finding form the closer and closer the Olympics get. With an impressive showing at the muddy track in Les Gets (openly not Nino’s favorite conditions), he seems ready for anything that the Izu track can offer. Plus, the new Scott Spark with 120mm of travel (the most on the XC World Cup circuit were guessing) could be the perfect tool for the rocky Tokyo track.
Mathias Flückiger win
Credit: Mathias Flückiger .com
  • Name: Mathias Flückiger
  • Age:33
  • Country: Switzerland
  • UCI Rank:1
  • Bike: THÖMUS Lightrider WC
  • Why they can win: Mathias is coming off double wins in back-to-back World Cup events, winning the short course and XC in Leogang, and doing the same in Les Gets a month later. The Swiss powerhouse is a mudder and technically proficient when the track gets spicy. The question is does he have enough in the tank after all the pressure of keeping the World Cup leaders jersey and #1 UCI Rank — we’ll see!
Prototype Blackbox SRAM XX1 AXS integrated direct mount power meter chainring, photo by Michal Cerveny, Jordan Sarrou Specialized Stellenbosch camp S-Works Epic, rock riding
c. Specialized, photo by Michal Červený
  • Name: Jordan Sarrou
  • Age:29
  • Country: France
  • UCI Rank: 3
  • Bike: Specialized Epic
  • Why they can win: If you’re the World Champ, you have what it takes to go deep when it matters and indeed have the skills to back it up. Jordan Surro clinched the World Champs jersey on a muddy technical course, and his results have been steadily creeping back to the top all season. Has he been training all year for this race, waiting to make the big attack in Tokyo? We’re betting — yes!

  • Name: Mathieu van der Poel
  • Age:26
  • Country: Netherlands
  • UCI Rank: 66
  • Bike: Canyon Lux SLX
  • Why they can win: Coming right off the Tour de France to the Olympics is no easy task. If you left the Tour after six days in the yellow jersey, though, that could make it a bit easier. There is much to say about MVP and his performance at larger-than-life events. He’s clinched five world cyclocross titles and numerous national titles, but this will be his first Olympic appearance — can he live up to the hype? Indeed, he did when he beat Nino and shattered the group at nearly every short course race this World Cup season — stoked!
Thomas Pidcock Redbull
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
  • Name: Thomas Pidcock
  • Age:22
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • UCI Rank: 15
  • Bike: Unknown (it looks like a BMC Fourstroke)
  • Why they can win: Coming back from a nasty training crash, Thomas is rested and primed for the Olympics. He’s proven that he has what it takes to win on the World Cup stage against the best in the MTB world, and with lots of road race miles in his legs, he could whittle the group down fast, with enough endurance to outlast most. We are looking for a total throw down between Thomas and the pure MTB racers of the bunch.

Wild Card for Olympic MTB

Ondřej Cink racing uphill
Credit: Nutrend Supplements
  • Name: Ondřej Cink
  • Age: 31
  • Country: Czech Republic
  • UCI Rank: 4
  • Bike: Kross Earth TE
  • Why they can win: Ondřej has come in second each cross country World Cup this season. Both events were on very muddy courses, and we know that Ondřej can out climb nearly everyone in the pack. If the course is dry and Cink gets a clean start, he could be the wild card that takes this race and runs.

Women’s Cross Country Mountain Bike

The projected win in the women’s field is just a hard to nail down as the men’s. Yes, Loana Lecomte has ridden away with nearly every race this season — but this is her first Olympics, and it’s a different track than the test event in 2020.

Evie Richards after a muddy race
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

The 30 women in the field come from all over the globe, but eyes are firmly fixed on the French as Loana Lecomte, and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot have been dominant, and we expect much of the same on the Izu MTB track.

Others can grab the gold, some that have trained the past four years with this race as a visual point. Anything can happen, and if the rain comes down like expected, the list of favorites can shuffle quite a bit — here are our picks on who to watch out for.

Top 5 for Women’s Olympic Cross Country Mountain Bike

Jenny R team photos
Photo By Svenska Cykelförbundet (SCF)
  • Name: Jenny Rissveds
  • Age:27
  • Country: Sweden
  • UCI Rank:25
  • Bike: Specialized Epic
  • Why they can win: The 2016 Rio women’s champion and all-around powerhouse. After her second-place solid performance at the World Cup at Les Gets, Jenny looks prime to snatch another gold medal. After taking some time away from the sport, Jenny has come back to the front of the women’s elite field just in time to defend her gold medal.

Loana Lecomte OXC

  • Name: Loana Lecomte
  • Age:22
  • Country: France
  • UCI Rank:1
  • Bike: Massi Aire SL
  • Why they can win: One of the youngest in the women’s field and a breakaway success at the World Cups — seemingly unstoppable on any terrain, Loana Lecomte gets off the front, holds a gap, and then it grows until her contenders can only fight for second. With the most world cup victories coming into the season, she is the favorite, but also being the youngest — can she rise to the pressure of the Olympic games?
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot rushing to the front of the OXC
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
  • Name: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot
  • Age:29
  • Country: France
  • UCI Rank: 2
  • Bike: BMC Fourstroke
  • Why they can win: A woman of many bike talents, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, has indeed done it all, and she has unforgivingly told the press that everything is prep for Tokyo. Though she hasn’t performed as most would expect at the World Cups, she has been consistent. We know she can perform at the highest level when needed and hope that fire will blaze for the Olympics.
Yolanda Neff Trek Factory Racing
Photo credit: Trek Bike.com
  • Name: Yolanda Neff
  • Age:28
  • Country: Switzerland
  • UCI Rank:15
  • Bike: Trek Supercal
  • Why they can win: Jolanda won the test event in 2020 and performs well at the biggest races, though her injury gave her much to work through. This event screams Jolanda’s course, from the techy bits to the possible mud — she’s one to watch for.
XC Tech Training with World Champ Kate Courtney
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
  • Name: Kate Courtney
  • Age:26
  • Country: USA
  • UCI Rank: 27
  • Bike: Scott Spark
  • Why they can win: Kate has been working hard all season, and the races have been less than optimal for her riding style. Mud isn’t the best for Kate, but techy-physical courses are, and if things stay dry for the women’s race, look for Kate at the front.

Wild Card

Rebecca Mcconnell toes the line
Photo credit: Mondraker.com
  • Name: Rebecca McConnell
  • Age:30
  • Country: Australia
  • UCI Rank: 6
  • Bike: Mondraker F-PODIUM CARBON RR
  • Why they can win: Rebecca McConnel has had a great start to the World Cup season and has kept the pressure on, battling at the front of the field for most of Les Gets. McConnel an experienced racer and knows the demands of Olympic racing. This very technical course favors a rider like McConnel, and if the course turns to mud, she knows how to navigate it.

Men’s and Women’s Mountain Biking Starting Lists for the Tokyo Olympics 2021


  • Sofia Gomez Villafane


  • Daniel McConnell
  • Rebecca McConnel


  • Maximilian Foidl
  • Laura Stigger


  • Githa Michiels
  • Jens Schuermans


  • Henrique Avanchi
  • Luiz Henrique Cocuzzi
  • Jacqueline Mourao


  • Peter Disera
  • Catherine Pendrel
  • Haley Smith


  • Martin Vidaurre Kossmann

Peoples Republic of China

  • Bianwa Yao
  • Peng Zhang

Czech Republic

  • Jitka Cabelicka
  • Ondrej Cink


  • Caroline Bohe
  • Sebastian Fini Carstensen
  • Malene Degn


  • Janika Loiv


  • Pauline Ferrand Prevot
  • Victor Koretsky
  • Loana Lecomte
  • Jordan Sarrou


  • Elizabeth Brandau
  • Maximilian Brandl
  • Rona Eibl
  • Manuel Fumic

Great Britain

  • Thomas Pidcock
  • Evie Richards


  • Periklis Ilias


  • Andras Parti
  • Kata Blanka Vas


  • Shlomi Haimy


  • Luca Braidot
  • Nadir Colledani
  • Gerhard Kerschbaumer
  • Eva Lechner


  • Miho Imai
  • Kohei Yamamoto


  • Daniela Capuzano Chavez Peon
  • Jose Gerardo Arevalo Ulloa


  • Alex Miller
  • Michelle Vorster


  • Anne Tauber
  • Anne Terpstra
  • Milan Vader
  • Mathieu van der Poel

New Zealand

  • Anton Cooper


  • Erik Haegstad


  • Bartlomiej Wawak
  • Maja Wloszczowska


  • Raquel Queiros

ROC (Russia)

  • Viktoria Kirsanova
  • Anton Sintsov


  • Vlad Dascalu


  • Tanja Zakelj

South Africa

  • Alan Hatherly
  • Candice Lill


  • Jofre Cul’lell Estape
  • Rocio del Alba Garcia Martinez
  • David Serrano Valero


  • Jenny Rissveds


  • Filippo Colombo
  • Mathias Flueckiger
  • Sina Frei
  • Linda Indergand
  • Jolanda Neff
  • Nino Schurter


  • Yana Belomoina

United States of America

  • Haley Batten
  • Christopher Blevins
  • Kate Courtney
  • Erin Huck

When to watch Olympic MTB Race

NBC Olympic coverage

For those in the states, you can watch all the action on NBC/Peacock — though the times are not convenient to those in the USA. So be sure not to miss the action and get some espresso ready! We’re guessing that the Peacock Premium service should have some event replay similar to the casting of the Tour de France, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Nino Red Bull rock garden
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Monday, July 26th— Men Olympic cross country mountain bike

  • 2:00 am USA EST
  • 1:00am USA CST
  • Midnight USA MST

Tuesday, July 27th– Women’s cross-country

  • 2:00 am USA EST
  • 1:00am USA CST
  • 12:00 am USA MST

For a full listing of all Olympic Cycling events, check out our first post here. 

Who are your predictions? Let us know in the comments!

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2 years ago

Nino will surprisingly win after MvdP and Tom Pidcock are battling nfirst for the win but both will facing a mechanical. Mathias Fluckiger will be 2nd. 3rd MvDP and 4th Pidcock. Milan Vader is 5th.

Rissveds and Courtney will be 2nd and 3rd and Evie Richards will be the gold medalist after Lecomte had a puncture. Haley Batten will be 5th.

James Cosgrave
2 years ago


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