This weekend marks the arrival of the 2017 UCI World Cup XCO season and it's already set up to be a belter. Over the last couple of seasons both elite men and women's classes have offered up classic races and we reckon there's a lot more to come this weekend.
Here's your guide to all the action that lies ahead.
Where are we going?
The fight for the 2017 UCI World Cup XCO title race will be conducted on familiar battlefields, each one with their own distinct personality and challenges.
May 20-21: Nové Mesto, Czech Republic
May 27-28: Albstadt, Germany
July 1-2: Vallnord, Andorra
July 8-9: Lenzerheide, Switzerland
August 5-6: Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada
August 26-27: Val di Sole, Italy
September 5-10: UCI World Championships, Cairns, Australia
What happened in the elite women’s series last year?
Last season, the sheer depth of talent in the current elite women's field was demonstrated in full effect. It was of course a year that was always set to be dominated by the games in Rio and, as a result, it was amazing to watch the battling and jostling as the big names came into peak form.
Who to look out for
The season began with wins for the Dane, Annika Langvad. Although she would ultimately miss out on the UCI World Cup overall title, she won the World Championships title in the Czech Republic.
Who did she lose the overall title to? Well, none other than Catharine Pendrel. The Canadian's mid-season pace was sensational and she won the old classic Mont Sainte-Anne at a canter.
Gold in Rio went to the young starlet, Jenny Rissveds and amongst all this, Swiss phenomenon Jolanda Neff still managed to win two UCI World Cup races! Oh, and then there's Emily Batty, Yana Belomoina, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Lea Davison, Helen Grobert…
What happened in the elite men’s series last year?
Unlike the women's field, there was one name painted large above 2016 and that was Nino Schurter. The Swiss missile hit home and took a sweep of the UCI World Cup title, the UCI World Championships and gold at the games in Rio. It was by no means a stroll to all those podiums however, he was pushed hard at times, but ultimately was just to strong when it counted.
Who to look out for
Julien Absalon won an emotional home round in La Bresse and many are widely speculating that this is set to be his final season of UCI World Cup racing. The only other man to break the Schurter/Absalon stranglehold on the top step in recent years is the big Czech, Jaroslav Kulhavý.
Winning in front of 23,000 screaming home fans at round one in Nové Město this weekend will be high on his agenda. He won here back in 2015.
What’ll they be riding?
XCO bikes are extremely specific tools. Weight is kept to a bare minimum thanks to the extensive usage of carbon fibre everywhere from frames to rims.
Some riders (Jaroslav Kulhavý, Anneka Langvad) prefer the control and increased descending ability of a full-suspension design, but the majority of the pack see it simply as excess weight. Twenty-nine inch is the wheel size of choice. Racing poshness comes courtesy of electric shifting and suspension controls, dependent on team sponsors.
Last season, we started seeing some riders experiment with height adjustable seatposts, which help to get the seat out of the way for technical sections. Will this be a recurring theme in 2017? Time will tell.
Don't forget that you can watch all the action from Nové Mesto LIVE on Red Bull TV and Red Bull Bike on May 20 and 21.