Magazine article Newsweek

Six Miles of Torture

Magazine article Newsweek

Six Miles of Torture

Article excerpt

THIS IS GOING TO BE HARD," SAYS TINKER JUAREZ, WHO IS JUST COMING OFF A loop on Atlanta's freshly completed Olympic mountain-biking course. It's only May, and not even noon, but already the thermometer reads 90 degrees. Juarez is so overheated his knees are sweating. "There are a lot of climbs, and they're spaced so close together," he says, lifting off his lemon-yellow helmet and freeing a mop of shoulder-length black curls. "You don't have much time to catch your breath."

Quite an admission, coming from a guy who makes a living racing his bicycle over root-and log-infested trails, riding up rock-strewn mountain passes and scorching down single-track slopes so steep he's got to hang his butt off the back of the seat just to keep the rear wheel on the ground. Juarez has already qualified for one of two slots on the men's Olympic team. Juli Furtado, who is considered by many the greatest mountain biker ever--male or female--has also locked up her spot. This month's final qualifying race will determine which other two Americans will go to the Olympics' first mountain-biking competition.

The Atlanta course is indeed trying. "We wanted a ride that combined as many different kinds of conditions as possible," says Brian Stickel, one of the designers. The 6.6-mile loop taunts riders with five fierce uphills--and half a dozen merely nasty ones--for a total of 1,100 feet of climbing per lap. Along the way are downhills with hidden three-foot drop-offs and wheel-sucking sand pits. …

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