No American has ever earned a medal in Olympic mountain biking. But that’s what Team USA’s Howard Grotts aims to do.
It will be Grotts’s first Olympics and he’s the only rider for the U.S. in men’s mountain biking. The United States was only awarded one mountain biking position because of a poor international ranking over the past two years.
The Durango, CO native has proved he’s the best American mountain biker in both races on his home soil and abroad.
Grotts won the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships men’s professional cross country race in 2015 and he’s the top American on the 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup tour.
Though Grotts is only 5’7”, 119 pounds, he is a powerhouse on a mountain bike. And he better be… because the competition is stiff. Two big-time competitors are the early favorites in Rio: Nino Schurter of Switzerland and Julien Absalon of France.
Schurter rode for the silver medal in 2012 and bronze in 2008. He’s currently the top-ranked cross-country mountain biker in the world. Absalon already has two gold medals under his belt and is looking to add a third.
Grotts will need an impressive showing to find himself on the podium, but he’s been in this type of situation before. In the 2014 UCI Mountain Biking World Championships, Grotts ended his first lap in 33rd place. After an impressive push through the field, he ended up taking home the bronze.
He will need that kind of effort, but if Grotts can find his way onto the podium, he’d be making history for Team USA.