UCI World Championships bring together all aspects of the sport, from the traditional Olympic cross-country (XCO) and the crowd favourite downhill (DHI), to the team relay, skill-testing trials and the newest event, the Eliminator (XCE).
The action begins on Tuesday with the Eliminator, to be held for the third time at the World Championships. Racing in heats of four riders at a time on a short, technically challenging circuit, the top-two advance from each heat until there are only four left to go for the world title.
In the Women’s category, Alexandra Engen started the year strongly with two wins and a second place in the World Cup, but after missing the second half of the season due to fatigue, she will also sit out the UCI World Championships. The top favourite will be Switzerland’s Kathrin Stirnemann, who won the World Cup title a week ago.
On the Men’s side, there are at least three favourites, including outgoing World Champion Paul van der Ploeg (Australia), World Cup champion Fabrice Mels (Belgian) and the newest phenomenon, Argentina’s Andres Soto.
Wednesday is the team relay, a once a year event that pits four riders from each nation against each other. Each country enters an Elite Man and Woman, a Under-23 Man and a Junior Man. Teams can send their riders off in any order they wish, so do they try to open a big lead with the fastest riders and hope they can hang on, or save them until last, and hope they can catch the early leaders? Perennial favourites are Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Italy and France.
All through the week, the trials competition will be held, providing spectators with a slower, but no less challenging series of events to watch. Competitors have to ride over, under and through a series of obstacle courses, all within a time limit and without putting a foot down. Traditionally strong countries in this unique event are Spain, France, Belgium and Germany.
From Thursday to Saturday, the focus is the XCO, starting with the Juniors categories, then Under-23 and finally the Elite Men and Women. While every race has fierce competition, some of the biggest battles are expected to be in the Under-23 Women between defending champion Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) and Pauline Ferrand Prévot (France), the Elite Women between legendary Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa racing at home and Catharine Pendrel (Canada), and the continuing competition between defending champion Nino Schurter (Switzerland) and World Cup champion Julien Absalon (France).
The final day of competition is devoted to gravity racing, with the Juniors Men and Women, Elite Women and Elite Men fighting for the world title in each category. The Juniors Men has been a race all year between World Cup champion Loris Vergier (France) and American Luca Shaw.
For the Elite Women it should be a fight between defending champion Rachel Atherton (Great Britain), World Cup champion Manon Carpenter (Great Britain) and Emmeline Ragot (France). All three have won this season, and any of them could take the title.
The Men’s race also has multiple contenders, including World Cup champion Josh Bryceland (Great Britain), American Aaron Gwin, Australia’s Troy Brosnan and Sam Hill, plus defending champion Greg Minnaar (South Africa). Of these riders, only Minnaar and Hill have won the Elite title before.
The action begins on Tuesday, and you can catch all the action on www.redbull.tv.