France's Loic Bruni is expected to be in contention to win the Mountain Bike World Cup season opener in Lourdes ©Getty Images

The International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike World Cup season opener is scheduled to take place in Lourdes, France this weekend.

The French town will be hosting the men’s and women’s downhill competitions for the first time since 2017.

The two-kilometre downhill track will feature challenging rocks and forest sections and will finish in the town, which is famed for being a popular catholic pilgrimage site.

Cross-country riders must wait until the World Cup event in Petropolis, Brazil for their start to the 2022 season.

Riders will be coming in fresh after a long winter off-season and hope to achieve a good start to the 11 round series.

The main names in the mix to win the men’s competition are France’s Loïc Bruni and Loris Vergier, Britain’s Danny Hart and South Africa’s Greg Minnaar.

The 20-year-old French rider Thibaut Dapréla is another favourite and is hoping to build off the success of his 2021 season with a win at Lourdes this weekend.

Adding to the strong French turnout are Amaury Pierron and Benoit Coulanges, who are both looking for a win on their home turf.

In the women’s competition, Britain's Tahnée Seagrave will be looking to replicate the success she had the last time she visited Lourdes in 2017. 

In that race, Seagrave placed third behind compatriot Rachel Atherton and Australia’s Tracey Hannah.

Only Seagrave and Frances’ Marine Cabirou and Myriam Nicole have experience of racing at Lourdes and it will be a debut for the other riders.

Austria’s Vali Höll and Switzerland’s Camille Balanche are the other main contenders in the women’s downhill.

The qualifying rounds for all competitions, including the juniors, will start tomorrow.

The finals and award ceremony will follow on Sunday.