Olympic MTB Racing

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Both the men’s and women’s Olympic MTB races were great last weekend.  So much for a course that some described as a “bike path”.  I was surprised about how many of the women started the race all bandaged up.  And in the men’s race, there were tons of crashes and mechanicals, which isn’t a sign of a bike path course.

I was rooting for both Jenny Rissveds and Nino Schurter.  Both ride for my friend Thomas Frischknecht’s Scott-Odlo MTB Team, so that is great for that program.   I’m waiting for the mass email recapping the race.

Peter Sagan put himself in a position to make me eat my words.  I didn’t see the very start, but somehow Sagan beamed himself up to the front of the race early in the first lap.  That seemed nearly impossible to me.  It was such drag when he flatted.  I have to say, he didn’t look that comfortable following Nino around the course the first lap.  He lost time on both the climbs and descents, but easily made it up through pedalling on the flats.  I don’t think he would have won, but he was in the mix, so who knows.

Nino made the event look stupid easy.  That guy can ride a MTB.  They said he was using a 29’r, but his wheels looked smaller, so I think he might have been on a 27.5.  Either way, he rode crazy smooth.  I only saw him make a small mistake once which the course was slick from overnight rain.

So, Nino Schurter has his collection of Olympic medals, a gold, silver and bronze now from the last three Olympics.  He doesn’t need to collect any other medals, he has his owns.

The Olympics seemed like they are over before the started.  I guess that was two weeks.  Man, does time pass quickly.  I didn’t realize the Vuelta was 3 days in today, until today.  Too much cycling to follow.

I rode my MTB 50 miles on gravel yesterday.  I’m going to try to ride it a couple times a week for the next month before Chequamegon.    I’m hoping the 4 criteriums over Labor Day in St. Louis, the Gateway Cup, will jump start me and give me some speed.   Man, are those going to be painful.

This isn't a bike path I normally ride.

This isn’t a bike path I normally ride.

Catharine Pendral rode great to get the bronze.

Catharine Pendral, Canada,  rode great to get the bronze.

I think Tucker has been watching too many cats growing up.

I think Tucker has been watching too many cats growing up.






22 thoughts on “Olympic MTB Racing

  1. Spandex King

    It was so disappointing when Sagan flatted. I really wanted to see how he did as the race progressed. After that I kind of lost interest. Good luck in Chequamegon!

  2. Rich

    If you watch the aerial view of the start, Sagan zoomed up the right side on the left turns in the start chicane and scooped everyone. He was sitting in the top 5-7 within 20 seconds of the start. It was really impressive.

    I thought he looked comfortable on the climbs, personally. Not as much on most of the descents. Of course, I was watching from my comfortable couch.

  3. Tman

    The course turned out to be fun to watch. The preview I had seen made it look like groomed gravel all the way around…………….or I shut it off too early in the lap. After watching and discussing it witt pals It reminded me of the type of course we had at Buck Hill or Welch Village 20 years ago. Courses that the more I think about were pretty damn fun to race and spectate.

  4. Mech9


    Nino has been riding the 29″ exclusively lately. He was on the prototype Scott 29 the last WC which is where all the spy shots came from. His olympic bike was a 29er for sure. He’s also been riding a mix between tubeless and tubular tires. He’s opted for tubeless lately because of the weight savings. He’s been riding maxxis aspen tubeless now instead of the dugaust tubi’s (even though maxxis doesn’t sponsor him). He blacks out the logo with a sharpie. The tires at the olympics also appeared to be the maxxis.

    About Sagan:
    Even if Sagan had not flatted I don’t think he would have even been in the top 7. Yes easy for me to say as an armchair opinionated internet nobody. The level that the top guys are at is beyond just having a great motor that Sagan has. Benjamin Haworth of Cycling News actually said something that you would probably agree with.

    “It will remain one of the great what-ifs of Olympic mountain biking. “What if Sagan hadn’t punctured?” But, then again, he punctured. And not-puncturing is part of being a good mountain bike racer.
    Read more at http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/racing/olympics/peter-sagan-suffers-disastrous-day-in-olympic-mtb-after-bright-start-276795#RzRoiXTvIjMqAX2k.99

    I couldn’t agree more. Yes there’s a lot of bad luck with flats. However, multiple flats or mechanicals or “issues” are typically a result of someone riding above and beyond their means. As a mechanic that races, i’ve seen this a lot. It’s almost always the same really aggressive riders that DNF due to a mech or flat, and then you notice that all the really smooth riders that float over terrain rarely flat nor have a mechanical. This is part of being a good XC rider. You have to be beyond just a powerful engine. Finesse goes a long way in XC racing. By no means do I think that sagan is not a great and outstanding XC racer. He was Jr. World champ..You have to be outstanding to achieve that. However, can Sagan hop back on a mtb for a couple months refresher and expect to podium at the olympics? Heck no. I love the guy though. So entertaining and just pure Racer. Bravo to him for not quitting and bring some much needed hype to a discipline of cycling that has really been flat over the last 10yrs.

  5. Barb

    I often wonder if in a race like this, the mistake is using “race tires”. When I built my first mountain bike up with weight in mind, I tried Conti Race King tires. Even though the likes of Weins et. al uses those tires in longer races, I found them to be extremely flimsy. No amount of slime is going to seal a large sidewall cut, and in a 90 minute race, inserting a tube isn’t an option. So I’m wondering if Sagan was using flyweight tires? Look at the “bike path” — a flat just waiting to happen. And what is 100 grams heavier on each tire, if you’re out of the race using tissue paper tires?

  6. Mech9


    It looks like he was running specialized Renegades front and rear. They are definitely the s-works version (weight weenie) of that tire (you can tell by the red lettering). They are really thin side walls. These tires would normally be ok on this course but when you add mud, and a guy riding past his limit flats are bound to happen. They are a nice tire though.. Large volume and really light for their size.

  7. Danny E

    I thought the women’s race was better to watch. I knew if it was hot outside that Neff would fade away, which she did about half way through the race. Rissveds had been in top form during her last few races, so I knew she was going to be good, but I think Pendrel would have been there with her had she not crashed at the beginning of the race.

    Glad to see Wloszczowska medal with a silver, especially after her heartbreaking loss at worlds when she flatted at the end of the race. The look of devastation on her face was haunting.

    Anything that could have went wrong for Annika Langvad did, but she held it together for a solid 11th. Great race overall.

  8. KrakatoaEastofJava

    Never gamble on tires. If you really need them to stay inflated, go with durable over light.

  9. Reince

    Peter was 3rd before the first climb started but it wasn’t like the riders were funneled into single track right away. Similar position he’s used to sitting in the peloton. Riding light and line choice are associated with flats for sure – on the road too where some people just seem to ride heavy plowing over every rock and pot hole and flatting more than others. Can’t imagine Sagan would have stayed up front all 7 laps but 2, 3, more? Did/do any riders carry c02/slime/tube in races where riders must proceed all the way ’round for service? Even a rear tube can be replaced pretty quickly compared to how slow the flatted were going. The course did have some mud but looked like many of the biggest rocks were smooth, not like the loose baby head size ones you were beaming back from CO. Apparently popular with the riders. Razor blades go dull from corrosion not from cutting hair. They can remain sharp and last many, many times longer by storing in oil or simply drying after use. Looking forward to race reports from Gateway and WI.

  10. LD

    I wonder, too, if the weight of added muscle since his junior racing years has made it harder for him to finesse a course. It can’t be easy maneuvering a body his size around a rock garden.

  11. Fergie

    Enlighten me on the newer rules.
    The biggest(most important) MTB in 4 yrs..Every “i” dotted every “t” crossed. Perfect tire/psi selection..All equip choices to perfection.
    Why wouldn’t you have a Co2/tube in case of mishap when you’re not right by/near pit area?
    That wouldn’t have kept Sagan in the top 5 but it would have kept him competitive as he would have liked to have been.
    Is there a rule that prohibits this?

  12. Jim Feeley

    It was a good race, Spandex. If the replay is still available on the NBC Olympics app (or, um, elsewhere on he web), it’s worth a watch. I don’t really follow MTB racing, but I thought the coverage and racing were both top notch and fun.

    Check it out!

  13. mark

    Sagan’s start was pretty impressive. He did everything he had to perfectly and seemed comfortable following the top guys that we all expected would fight for the medals. The only thing he really did wrong was NOT riding that bike more during the year. As you know, mechanicals and especially flats, are way more common on a MTB you have not been riding much. You will ride a bike differently when you’ve been riding it a long time. With sharp-edged rocks all over that course, and running 20psi, this was very apparent. Its not completely random who flatted and who did not. Its not luck that the guys on the podium did not flat and suffered no mechanicals.

  14. Ted L.

    There is no rule that prohibits it. Most riders don’t carry it at that level due to the added weight and the time it takes to remove the tire, valvestem, having to deal with the sealant everywhere. On top of that, tubeless tires fit the rim much, much tighter than standard mtb tires, so you can end up wrestling with some of them for quite some time, especially after you throw sealant in the mix making everything slippery. Usually at most they are 2 km away from a tech zone, so they just ride it out.

  15. Wallace

    I agree, both races were fun to watch on TV and that is really what XC needs right now. Man, where did all the XC coverage go in the US? It’s pretty hard to find any coverage of the dirt scene on the mainstream cycling websites. Kind of a shame.

    And for being an artificial course, it looked great. Kind of fun, kind of scary and definitely hard enough to separate the field.

    As for Sagan, he put on a master class in how to get a good start from a terrible position. Very similar to Stybar a few years back in his first WC cross race back on the scene. Those guys knew what they needed to do in the first 20 seconds and executed perfectly. I don’t think Sagan’s puncture is all his doing like some are saying, it seemed that at least 4 guys from the top 10 flatted pretty early. He looked pretty comfy sitting top 3 in that first lap.

    Overall, fun stuff to watch.

  16. Large D

    He’s not using tubeless for weight savings the DT Swiss 29″ XRT950 tubular wheels are lighter than the 29″ XMC clincher wheels. Dugast tubulars are similar to the Maxxis prototype 170 tpi Aspen TR tires Nino has been using but after double flatting at the La Bresse World Cup Nino must have decided to go with a less risky setup. Rissvids ran the tubular Dugast setup and still won the Women’s race. She was in 27.5.

  17. RGTR

    But wait a minute…that toad two posters above you said the world class top notch riders don’t double flat nor has mechanicals, they are too finesey – MEOW.

  18. Paul Boudreaux

    Sagan looked pretty comfortable up there to me. Given his power and the strength he’s built up over the course of this year (and his career) I’m not sure why anyone would be so sure that he would have faded. S-Works tires may not have been a good choice, but other than that it seems like flats are pretty random. Going in I though maybe top 10 and was surprised how easily he got through the field. The guy is far and away the best bike rider in the world though, so as he said, “who the hell knows”.

  19. Dave Lettieri

    Segan went from last to top 5 in less than 2 minutes. Then made it to 3rd. I re watched the start a few times. Crazy skills to move through a world class field

  20. Greg

    I had an engineering professor in college who told the class if you would put petroleum jelly on your blade after you shaved it would last forever.


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