2016 UCI Downhill World Cup - the five things you need to know

Round 1 of the planet's most exciting race series kicks off this weekend

After a seven-month hiatus, the UCI Downhill World Cup circus is back on the road. The French town of Lourdes is playing host to the opening round of the series, which continues until September. Here's what you need to know to get in the mood for some amazing racing...

1. The location

Lourdes is a famously religious town, popular with Christian pilgrims since reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the 1850s. Maybe the connection to faith helped propel the USA's Aaron Gwin to his opening round victory here last year?!

A towering mountain, the Pic du Jer, hangs above the town, accessed by a funicular railway built in 1900. The train is used to ferry the riders up to the lofty peak at 1,000m above sea level.

Sam hill is always a contender:
Sam hill is always a contender:

2. The track

With a winning time of just under three minutes last year, the Lourdes DH track is long, gnarly and fast. Taking in some of the rockiest terrain on the Pic du Jer, the track is sure to cause its fair share of carnage! With several really gnarly rocky sections and big jumps, the riders will need to be ready to risk it all for the win!

The terrain at Lourdes is famously slippery when wet and the weather forecast is currently showing rain for Saturday (qualifications) and sun for Sunday (finals). This could really mix things up – although no matter what the weather does, it's going to be exciting racing!

The weather is could play it's part in sunday's racing: the weather is could play it's part in sunday's racing
The weather is could play it's part in sunday's racing: the weather is could play it's part in sunday's racing

3. The competitors

Aaron Gwin won very convincingly here last year, with a 3.95-second gap over France's Loic Bruni. Riders from the UK then filled out the next five positions from third to seventh. Young gun Mike Jones came third, followed by Danny Hart, Sam Dale, Brendan Fairclough and Josh Bryceland. We're pinning our hopes on similar British dominance this year

In the women's race, the now semi-retired Emmeline Ragot, of France, took the win just two seconds ahead of the UK's Rachel Atherton. Keep an eye out for Manon Carpenter and Tahnée Seagrave at this year's event – two more British podium contenders.

The legend that is Steve Peat is returning to World Cup racing for his final season after an injury-plagued 2015. He was unable to get the required 30 UCI points to race Lourdes in his team kit. Luckily, British Cycling can enter a number of riders from the UK so long as they wear a British Cycling jersey. Keep an eye out for Peaty on track.

Rachel atherton is one of the world's best racers:
Rachel atherton is one of the world's best racers:

4. The bikes

The first World Cup of the year is the best place to spot the latest and greatest mountain bike technology, which might trickle down to your trail bike in a couple of years' time. So, keep your eyes peeled for any changes and prototype bikes at the race.

The fans love racing, and the atmosphere at lourdes is always electrifying: the fans love racing, and the atmosphere at lourdes is always electrifying
The fans love racing, and the atmosphere at lourdes is always electrifying: the fans love racing, and the atmosphere at lourdes is always electrifying

5. Where you can watch the race

Luckily, every round of the World Cup is broadcast live online on Red Bull TV so you can watch all of the action unfold as it happens from your living room! Click HERE for a direct link to the live stream at 13:30 BST on Sunday 11th April.

Grab a copy of MBUK to get the latest on all things mountain biking! You can get your hands on the magazine in print at your local newsstand, have it delivered directly to your door or read it online...

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