Let’s just say the day Rio won the bid was a difficult one. We mourned with Chicagoans, whose disbelieving expressions after the announcement were plastered on the front of every major newspaper in the region. After riding the course that could have been, we were just as astonished to know the KOMs of local legends, including those owned by more than a few Trek employees, would not be contested and surely broken by the world’s best.Call it regional pride, but we were hard-pressed to believe that any other city could deliver a course that so perfectly encapsulated the emotion and energy of our sport. So we set out in search of understanding. We sent our photographer to visit Trek Brazil, our office in the host country of the Summer Games, to tour the course and ride the roads that had been chosen over ours.Nestled into the southern coastline of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is a city with its own heartbeat. The coastline is the great unifier for locals and visitors alike. Day and night, the famous calçada portuguesa pavements teem with beachgoers. Skateboarders, cyclists and joggers coast the pedestrian lanes leisurely, with a kind of contagious coolness.The 253-kilometre course, which delivers an astounding 17,000 feet of total change in elevation, begins at the famous Copacabana Beach and hugs the coastline past the sands of Ipanema—yes, the one from the song—for the first of two primary circuits. From the flat, wide open beach roads, the circuit narrows into a pair of punchy, tree-covered climbs, one of which has a maximum gradient of 13%, and a two-kilometre section of cobblestones. This circuit is repeated four times before the course turns back towards Ipanema.The race will surely be decided on the three laps of the second circuit. Inland from the coastal air, the National Park Serra da Tijuca delivers long, steep climbs, winding descents and extraordinary views of Rio. From the high lookout Vista Chinesa, where monkeys rustle overhead in tree canopies, the famous Cristo Redentor is visible in the distance, arms stretched in blessing.In the end, there probably couldn’t be two more distinctive courses than the course that could have been and the course that will be. And though we will always hold that ours is worthy of the greatest, we’re also now more excited than ever to watch the drama unfold in Rio. It is certainly a worthy stage.