Pauline Ferrand-Prevot rides through a technical rock garden in an XC World Cup.

2024 Mountain Bike World Cup Preview

With an early start this weekend in Brazil, the 2024 World Cup gets out of the gate with a focus on Olympic qualification.

Ryan Simonovich
by Ryan Simonovich 12.04.2024 Photography by
Piper Albrecht
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Just as the cobbled classics wrap up, it’s time to talk about mountain biking again as the MTB World Cup kicks off this week down in Brazil. The calendar gets an early start this year thanks to a small race this summer called the Olympic Games. For mountain bikers, the Olympics are a BIG deal; expect a lot of chatter about qualification and selection, especially around the first few races on the World Cup calendar. 

While the World Cup has retained a Euro-centric list of venues in recent years, the circuit made a trip down to Brazil as recently as 2022. The Petrópolis round saw passionate crowds come out for the race in Henrique Avancini’s hometown, though the elite men’s race was ultimately won by Nino Schurter. Two years on, this year’s contest kicks off in Mairiporã before heading north to Araxá next week. 

2024 World Cup Calendar

XC races in bold

Round 1 schedule – Mairiporã, Brazil

 All times local. Note that XCC is on Saturday as opposed to the regular Friday) 

April 13 

April 14 

Where to Watch 

Olympic Qualification Info

Olympic qualification and selection gets complicated quickly, but here are the basics. Shout out to CX Hairs for the more detailed primer published this week. 

The first three XC rounds of the World Cup take place just ahead of the qualification deadline that determines how many riders countries get to take to Paris. That period runs from May 7, 2022, to May 26, 2024, during which national governing bodies have been keeping close tabs on their rankings. 

Ultimately, 72 athletes will get to compete in the Paris MTB race (split equally between the women’s and men’s fields), which is much smaller than a typical World Cup field. After nations know how many riders they get to take to the startline, it’s up to those nations to select which riders they bring – which is where controversy often comes in. 

The track 

At the time of this writing, not much info has come out about the Mairiporã track. I’m sure lots of videos and social media clips will be coming on Thursday and Friday. 

In addition to the usual World Cup and Olympic stress and hype, riders will have a new set of mental and physical challenges in Brazil. While many riders have raced in the country before at Rio 2016 and during the 2022 World Cup, it’s simply a different culture and environment than a lot of the racers are used to in Europe for most of the year. Add on top of that a long travel day, plus a brand-new venue and track layout. It’s the small things that can become marginal gains if addressed properly or marginal losses if not prepared for. 

The Contenders  

I wish staring straight into the dark depths of Monday’s solar eclipse granted me all-knowing powers about who’s fit and who’s not, but that’s unfortunately not the reality. It’s always tough to know how much stock to put into early season results, but here’s a run down on who to watch this week. 

Some riders got a preview of the Mairiporã track last week at a test event, which was won by Decathlon-Ford’s Savilia Blunk and Joshua Dubau. Both riders had solid seasons last year mixing it up at the front of races, and both will have stiff competition from compatriots for Olympic selection. 

Josh Dubau navigates a rock garden in an XC race.
Josh Dubau won last week’s test event and is looking to lock up an Olympic spot.

Blunk won the test event in a sprint against fellow American Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing), and the rest of the top five was rounded out by Jenny Rissveds (Team 31), Greta Seiwald (Decathlon), and Chiara Teocchi (Orbea). The Americans will be challenged for Olympic selection by Madigan Munroe (Trek Factory Racing) and Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM), while Rissveds should be relatively safe as the top Swede and as the former Olympic champion. 

Dubau managed to get separation early in the race ahead of Filippo Colombo (Scott-SRAM) and Mathias Flückiger (Thömus maxon) on the podium, with Adrien Boichis (Trinity Racing) and Maxime Marrot (Decathlon-Ford) in fourth and fifth. As is somewhat obvious, both the French and Swiss Olympic hopefuls will have quite the battle among themselves to get their tickets to Paris. 

A few star riders will not be on the startline in Brazil. For starters, #1-ranked Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) is staying in Europe after racing the Tour of Flanders a couple weeks ago. The Dutchwoman opted to extend her spring road campaign on the cobbles when good form presented itself. 

There has not been official confirmation from the riders or from their teams, but it’s looking likely that World Champion Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Peter Sagan (Specialized) will not be in Brazil either. Pidcock just raced Paris-Roubaix and is on the start lists for the upcoming Ardennes races. Sagan has undergone two heart surgeries in recent months and is just getting back to training. His Olympic quest was already going to be a challenge and now it’s looking even more unlikely. 

Speaking of roadies, another question mark this season is Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Mathieu van der Poel. He has indicated interest in the Olympic MTB race, but his debut back to the dirt at the Glasgow Worlds last summer was ill-marked after a slide-out in a fairly tame corner early in the race. 

It’s always interesting to consider those who have performed well in early season races. The Brazil race in 2022 – though at a different venue – was won by the aforementioned Schurter, as well as Australian Rebecca Henderson (Mondraker). Henderson’s victory kick started a winning streak and a grip on the series leader’s jersey. Could it happen again? Last year’s results were not as champagne-filled for the Aussie, but she certainly seems motivated. Schurter needs no introduction and can seemingly pop out a solid result at any time. 

As for 2023’s opening race, Pidcock and Pieterse won in Nové Město, which of course won’t help us predict this weekend. I’d keep my eye on Dubau, who came out of obscurity with a second place in Nové Město, as well as Trek’s Evie Richards, who was riding well at the Czech round before a flat tire stole her hopes at victory. 

Puck Pieterse, Evie Richards, and Jenny Rissveds lead a line of riders up a grassy climb at the start of an XC race.
Puck Pieterse (left) won’t be racing in Brazil, but Evie Richards (center) and Jenny Rissveds (right) are two to watch.

Other folks to watch include World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers), who always pulls out big performances for the big races and has been locked in a generational battle with Loana Lecomte (Canyon-CLLCTV). On the men’s side of the French squad, Jordan Sarrou (Team BMC) really came to form in the latter half of last season, and Thomas Griot (Canyon) was consistent as well. 

Alongside Schurter, Swissman Flückiger had an exceptional “comeback” year in 2023, though he suffered from a number of mechanical problems. Maybe 2024 will be his comeback round two. Flückiger’s teammate, Alessandra Keller, along with Trek’s Jolanda Neff, are the top ranked Swiss women and also never ones to overlook. 

I could go on forever with names and pros and cons of each, but other riders on my long list include Sam Gaze (Alpecin), Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale), Martina Berta (Santa Cruz-RockShox), Laura Stigger (Specialized), Anne Terpstra (Ghost), Christopher Blevins (Specialized), Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon), Vlad Dascalu (Trek), Victor Koretzky (Specialized), and Alan Hatherly (Cannondale). I’d also add that U23’s can also make their way into Olympics rosters so don’t sleep on names such as Samara Maxwell (Decathlon), Ronja Blochlinger (Liv), Adrien Boichis, and Riley Amos (Trek). 

Star Rankings 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Rebecca Henderson, Laura Stigger, Nino Schurter
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Jenny Rissveds, Loana Lecomte, Mona Mitterwallner, Luca Schwarzbauer, Jordan Sarrou, Mathias Flückiger, Joshua Dubau
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Savilia Blunk, Haley Batten, Evie Richards, Christopher Blevins
⭐️⭐️: Kate Courtney, Martina Berta, Charlie Aldridge (Cannondale)
⭐️: Anne Terpstra, Lars Forster (Thömus maxon), Thomas Griot

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