The third round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic this weekend and the fourth round in La Bresse, France next weekend are the final opportunities for nations to score valuable ranking points for 2012 Olympic Games qualification and for riders to meet Olympic standards for their respective nations. The level of competition at both rounds is expected to be more intense than ever, with riders fighting for every position.
In the Olympic qualifying battle, the women's category for the maximum possible two spots on the start line is pretty much set. It is based on the total number of points a nation has for the combined total of 2010-2011 as of May 23, 2011 and 2011-2012 as of May 23, 2012. Norway, in eighth place, has a 457-point lead over Russia as of May 1. The remainder of the nations (down to 18th place for one spot each on the start line) are pretty much safe, except in the battle for the final two spots (17th and 18th ranked). Sweden is currently in 17th place, followed by Hungary in 18th and Denmark in 19th. All three are separated by less than 100 points, with Hungary and Denmark a mere six points apart for the final spot. Denmark has the added problem that their top World Cup rider, Annika Langvad, ninth in the world rankings, is out of action with broken ribs. Potentially, this regular top-10 rider could miss out on going to the Olympics. Her fellow Danish women recently tried to help her out with a special trip to score some more UCI points.
In the men's Olympic qualifying battle, the top five nations are safe for the the maximum three spots, as are sixth through 13th ranked nations for two spots. In fact, it is almost impossible for the remaining 14th through 24th place nations that get one spot to lose a spot either.
Not mentioned in the above paragraphs is the fact that some nations will also be qualifying riders through their respective continental championships - if they do not otherwise qualify through the nations' rankings.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave all weekend.