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Get stoked for the women’s Olympic cross-country MTB race

Expect a showdown from Team France and Team USA, as Pauline Ferrand Prevot, Loana Lecomte, and Kate Courtney position themselves for gold.

Monday night’s women’s cross-country mountain bike race is one of the most highly-anticipated cycling events in this year’s Olympic Games.

Multiple storylines crisscross the sport like a network of sinewy singletrack.

Will French phenom Loana Lecomte continue her winning streak? Can 2016 Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds hold onto the gold? After her 2018 world championship and 2019 overall World Cup wins, is Kate Courtney due for another big victory? Or, as we saw in the women’s road race on Sunday, will the Olympic win go to someone else entirely?

Read also: Off-road to Tokyo — the Olympic mountain bike course

The women’s cross-country course is the same insanely technical track that saw Mathieu van der Poel somersault over his bike on Sunday, with the women racing one lap less than the men. The ascents and descents are steep and rocky and will favor a strong technical rider who can recover from the efforts quickly.

The weather in Izu could also play a factor in the women’s race; a steady rain has been falling all night on Monday, and humidity is high. Furthermore, a tropical storm nearing Japan’s northeastern coast could bring more heavy rain.

38 women will be competing for gold on Monday, in a field nearly one-third the size of a typical World Cup race. The United States and Switzerland were the only nations to receive three qualifying slots, with Courtney, Haley Batten, and Erin Huck representing Team USA, and Jolanda Neff, Sina Frei, and Linda Indergand donning the Swiss cross.

All of the women from the Olympic podium of the 2016 Rio games will be racing in Tokyo, with Rissveds, in particular, showing excellent form. The Swede had excellent results at both the Leogang and Les Gets World Cup races this year, clinching silver in both XCO races and a bronze at the Les Gets short track race.

And don’t count out Rio’s silver and bronze medalists Maja Włoszczowska of Poland and Catharine Pendrel of Canada in Tokyo; both women have been racing their way into form this season, with Pendrel’s results particularly inspiring after the birth of her daughter in late January.

Nevertheless, the eyes of the world will likely be on las femmes de la France in Tokyo this year. World champ Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and current superstar and World Cup leader Loana Lecomte both represent an excellent chance at gold.

Ferrand-Prévot comes to Tokyo as a veteran Olympian, although this is only her first time competing in the mountain bike race. In 2012, the 29-year old was the youngest competitor in the women’s road race. At Rio in 2016, she intended to ride on both the rail and the road; however, she abandoned the MTB race due to the effects of an injury she sustained earlier in the year.

The world champ has had a strong 2021 so far, with short track World Cup wins in Albstadt and Les Gets, but she has yet to stand on the top step of the podium in a cross-country race; that position has belonged solely to Lecomte.

The 21-year old’s preferred way of winning includes attacking off-the-bat and maintaining her lead until the race ends. Thus far, no one has finished within 50 seconds of her. Lecomte claws through mud, climbs up steep ascents, and descends rocky and rooty sections with equal parts technical acumen and cool confidence. It’s a winning combination, and we all want to know — will she do what she’s been doing all year in Tokyo?

Read also: Olympic Games: Kate Courtney’s Olympic village

The red-white-and-blue of Team USA will also be on full display with two strong contenders in Kate Courtney and Haley Batten. Courtney has made no secret that the Tokyo Olympics have been a goal for a long time. Although her 2021 season has been characterized by ups and downs, the 25-year old is as professional as it gets, with an iron will and a decade of mountain bike racing under her belt.

Batten earned her spot on Team USA handily earlier this summer with a second-place finish at Nove Mesto. In her first season as an elite, the 22-year old has shown she is positioned perfectly to compete with the world’s best; not only does she have excellent technical skills, Batten is also coached by three-time Olympian Kristin Armstrong.

Two other riders to watch include Evie Richards of Great Britain and Australian Rebecca McConnell, both of whom have posted impressive results this year.

Tokyo 2021 women’s Olympic cross-country mountain bike race start list

Argentina
Sofia Gomez Villafane

Australia
Rebecca McConnell

Austria
Laura Stigger

Belgium
Githa Michiels

Brazil
Jaqueline Mourao

Canada
Catharine Pendrel
Haley Smith

China
Bianwa Yao

Czech Republic
Jitka Cabelicka

Denmark
Caroline Bohe

Denmark
Malene Degn

Estonia
Janika Loiv

France
Pauline Ferrand Prevot
Loana Lecomte

Germany
Elisabeth Brandau
Ronja Eibl

Great Britain
Evie Richards

Hungary
Kata Blanka Vas

Italy
Eva Lechner

Japan
Miho Imai

Mexico
Daniela Campuzano Chavez Peon

Namibia
Michelle Vorster

Netherlands
Anne Tauber
Anne Terpstra

Poland
Maja Włoszczowska

Portugal
Raquel Queiros

Russian Olympic Committee
Viktoria Kirsanova

Slovenia
Tanja Zakelj

South Africa
Candice Lill

Spain
Rocio Del Alba Garcia Martinez

Sweden
Jenny Rissveds

Switzerland
Sina Frei
Linda Indergand
Jolanda Neff

Ukraine
Yana Belomoina

United States
Haley Batten
Kate Courtney
Erin Huck