By Chris Foster

The most important destination on any ITU athlete’s calendar this year is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 18 for the men and August 20 for the women. The site of the 2016 Olympic triathlon will be iconic Copacabana, and we’ve compiled a quick guide.

The Course

The Rio course is all about a major hill I’m calling “a Besta”—Portuguese for “the Beast.” According to U.S. Olympic hopeful Joe Maloy, the first 100 meters are at a 6-percent grade before rising to an aggressive 17 percent. Though USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager Andy Schmitz maintains that it’s not as steep as the 2004 Athens Olympic course, he allows that the dangerous descent makes it a formidable feature. The backside of the hill has already claimed Jarrod Shoemaker’s collarbone on a training ride last year and caused Australia’s Ryan Bailie to do a full flip over a barrier during the test event (look for it on YouTube!). As the course is looped, athletes will have to face “a Besta” and its descent five times for a total elevation of 2,400 feet.

While the bike is the most noticeable feature on the Olympic course, the run is easily the most straightforward. The flat, fast, four-loop course is completely unshaded and athletes will be hitting the run in the dead middle of the day. Obviously legs will be softened by the aggressive bike course, but still expect some incredibly fast times.

The Conditions

Though U.S. Olympian Sarah True admits that heat and humidity are her kryptonite, all athletes will have to contend with 80-degree-plus expected temperatures and more importantly, humidity that averages from roughly 50 to 90 percent. Regardless of the conditions on the day, expect to see athletes taking big risks with visions of gold in their eyes—and suffering some correspondingly big blowups.

After an atypically below-average race at the very hot and humid Gold Coast WTS in April, True isn’t leaving anything to chance in August. “I’ll be doing my pre-race prep at Flagstaff [Arizona], some training sessions in hot Sedona and a heat adaptation protocol using a steam room,” says True of her leadup to Rio. “I’ll also push the fluids and use an ice vest prior to racing, if the temperatures warrant.”

If You Go

Since the triathlon events are free to spectators, stake out a spot early; in London the crowds were incredibly dense, and with a more concentrated population in Rio, expect a crushing mob in August. The site of the triathlon swim, Copacabana Beach, is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with sand sculptures, nonstop volleyball and tiny swimwear. When asked of his first impression of Rio, Joe Maloy’s only response: “The bikinis.”

About seven miles from Maloy’s thong paradise sits a much more austere sight, the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Both Maloy and True put the 120-foot monument at the top of their post-race sightseeing list and any visitor to Rio should do the same. For an extra Olympic challenge, tri-tourists should tackle the four-mile hike from the Parque Lage trailhead to the top of the statue—coincidentally the trail’s elevation gain is roughly the same as the Olympic bike course.

After the hike, visitors can enjoy Rio’s famous bars and clubs but should be prepared for rowdy Olympic crowds. While athletes will be safely contained in the Olympic Village, they still have concerns. Maloy says his biggest worry about traveling to Rio is “my friends from college getting arrested.” So while athletes will be on the lookout for the descent on “a Besta,” others should just watch out for anyone who knows Joe Maloy.

LAVA-Cover-50_July2016_largeThis first appeared in the July 2016 issue of LAVA. Get your issue here.

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