For those who've been left starved of their normal diet of thrill-a-minute action from the downhill and cross-country disciplines, worry not a bit longer because the mountain biking race season is about to kick off in earnest. There's every is reason to be excited for the 2022 series, as for the first time since 2019 a full Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season will be running without the danger of postponements. Here's a run down of the 11 venues from around the world where World Cup racing will happen:
March 26–27: (DH) Lourdes, France
Lourdes has the honor of hosting the opening stop of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. The French venue is back on the World Cup calendar after the last of its three previous appearances came in 2017. Lourdes is more famously known for being a Roman Catholic pilgrimage site of course and the downhillers and their teams will be praying for good weather given this take places in springtime in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.
Lourdes DH recap
Lourdes again hosted the UCI MTB downhill opener for 2016 and the racing drama was as high as the Pyrenees.
The cross-country (XCO) mob get to hear their first starting pistols of the season in the exotic surroundings of Brazil at the only new venue for this year's Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. Petrópolis, a city, north of the capital Rio de Janeiro, is the spiritual home of cross-country mountain biking in Brazil. The Brazilian national championships have been held there. Petrópolis is also home to one of the world's leading cross-country riders: Henrique Avancini. Avancini was born in Petrópolis and when not competing around the world it's his training base.
The cross-country action moves from South America to Europe for the next round of the World Cup, with Albstadt in Germany hosting this first European stop. Albstadt is a firmly established regular on the World Cup circuit and this will be the ninth time that Albstadt has hosted the world's premier mountain bike racing series. The track here features two physically demanding climbs and has technical sections aplenty.
Albstadt race recap
The world's best XCO riders arrived in Albstadt, Germany, for the opening weekend of the 2021 season.
Nové Mesto is one of the best places on the planet to race cross-country bikes. The track, which is located between the Czech cities of Prague and Brno, features a litter of short, punchy climbs and fast, technical descents that make it a firm rider favorite. The long finishing-straight is pretty much tailor-made for producing drama when the athletes go all-out at the end of the short track (XCC) and cross-country races.
Men's XCC finish – Nové Město
Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel sprint for the win at the XCC men's race at Nové Město on May 14, 2021.
The downhillers return to racing after an almost two-month break at what's regarded as the sport's home in Great Britain. It's been a couple of years since there was UCI racing at Fort William, so expect there to be a lot of pent up frustration from the British fans who've been starved of seeing their heroes in action. For the athletes it'll be a case of relearning this iconic course, but one thing that will be familiar is the midges that are as much about racing the Scottish venue as going down the track itself. It's also one of those venues that simply refuses to produce dull downhill races.
The first triple-header of the season explodes into life in Austria. Over the last decade Leogang has firmly established itself as a stop on the calendar, but now has the added bonus of having the cross-country racers there having been only downhill-only for most of its time on the World Cup calendar. The downhill course is well-known, but for the cross-country racers Leogang is rather new. The XCO course was created afresh for the 2020 World Championships and has just one World Cup race from 2021 under its belt.
Leogang DH highlights
Take a look back at the best of the downhill action from the first World Cup race of the 2021 season.
Be at Leogang with Destination Red Bull
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The Swiss venue, which was first introduced in 2015, is one for those who like their racing with a touch of altitude. It's also probably the most picturesque of all the World Cup stops, with an area of rolling park-like countryside featuring at top of the mountain. If you do get down to terra firm and the bottom of the downhill course there is an idyllic lake. It's a temptation for riders and fans alike when the temperature gauge hits the roof, as it often does, given that this stop takes place in the middle of the summer.
Vallnord is home to one of the steepest, nastiest and most extreme tests of machine and rider known to the world of downhill mountain biking, while for the XCO riders, Vallnord is a lung-busting test of fitness at high-altitude. The racing here often produces unpredictable XCO races and, with an 'upside down' pits set-up, a less-than-orthodox weekend for the downhillers.
Behind the scenes at Vallnord
Get all the behind-the-scenes stories and much more from the stop in Vallnord, Andorra.
The World Cup goes transatlantic to North America and the United States for the first of two triple-round stops on the continent. Snowshoe retains its place as the US round, but for the first time it's not the final stop of the World Cup as it has been in its previous appearances. Both the cross-country and downhill races have drawn huge crowds and provided plenty of entertainment so far. At an elevation of 1,478m above sea-level Snowshoe is one of the highest venues on the circuit.
Women's XCC finish – Snowshoe
Evie Richards takes the win at the XCC women's race at Snowshoe on September 17, 2021.
It wouldn't be a Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season without a visit to the grandaddy of all venues – Mont-Sainte-Anne. The Canadian location has managed to stay relevant all these years on from the very first World Cup there in 1991, bridging the gap from the early days of mountain biking to the modern era of ultra-fast machines. The World Cup has not visited Mont-Sainte-Anne since 2018 [the World Championships were here in 2019] but nothing much changes there and that's the way the downhill and cross-country elite like it.
The World Cup heads back to Europe as we enter the final round of the 2022 season. The 'Black Snake', as Val di Sole's downhill track is fondly called, certainly has a bite and has trapped many a prey in its time, as riders try and fail to tame this notoriously steep course. The cross-country course is equally as unforgiving. Expect memorable races across the board with overall World Cup titles up for grabs.
Val di Sole DH recap
Get the recap from the DH race in Val di Sole, Italy of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2019.