Oro-Medonte mountain biker Gunnar Holmgren was in Paris on the weekend to test out the new course designed specifically to challenge the world's top athletes at the 2024 Olympics.
The 4.35-kilometre loop, with 110 metres of of elevation per lap, was constructed at Elancourt Hill just outside of Paris, France.
Each country sent their top prospects to the dress rehearsal race and Holmgren was invited on behalf of Team Canada.
"It was pretty cool," he said. "They've built the track new for the Olympics and they started completely from scratch."
The test race was the first time Holmgren had raced alongside other Olympic hopefuls from other countries on an Olympic track.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It was a faster course compared to some of the other races I've done this year."
Holmgren, 24, says the new course features lots of jumps, which is good for spectators.
"It was really flowy and fun," he said. "There were a few technical rock garden sections to keep you on your toes."
During the practice race, Holmgren finished fifth, giving him hope that he will be back next summer during the 2024 Summer Olympics.
"It would be a pretty cool opportunity," he said. "Over the next couple of months, I have to really focus on my racing and have good results to get there."
Holmgren, a ÉSC Nouvelle-Alliance graduate, is slated to race in two World Cup events Sunday in the U.S. He believes he will have to finish in the top 12 if he wants to keep his Olympic dreams alive.
"There is always the opportunity to win when you line up at the start line," said Holmgren, who was named Orillia's athlete of the year in 2021. "We are racing the best in the world so it will be tough."
Holmgren is now in his tenth year of racing competitively and sixth year racing in the World Cup circuit. The Olympics have always been his ultimate goal, following in the footsteps of Peter Disera, a multi-time national champion from Horseshoe Valley.
"He's been the top male mountain biker in Canada for a while," Holmgren said. "We are teammates now and are racing in the World Cup together this weekend. He has lots of experience to pull off of."
Holmgren is now coming to the end of his racing season which began in April. His last chance to podium this season will be at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile which begin on Oct. 20.