Mountain Bike is another Cycling discipline that joined the Olympic programme recently. Since the Atlanta 1996 Games, men and women have been competing in Cross Country events, on courses featuring ups, downs, trails and rough tracks.
The sport originated in California. It was in this American state that, in the 1970s, some cyclists looking for something different from road races began making tracks on hills and along land tracks. Members of a club in the outskirts of San Francisco created a competition that ran from 1976 to 1979, near the Golden Gate Bridge, generating interest in the sport.
The first national mountain bike championships took place in the United States in 1983. Seven years later, spurred by growing popularity in Australia and Europe, the first world championships recognised by the International Cycling Union (known by French acronym UCI) were held.
Although both competitions take place in the open air, the bicycles used in mountain biking differ significantly from those used in road racing: the tyres are wider, there are rear and front shock absorbers to cope with impacts on circuits, and they are made from much sturdier materials, despite weighing just 8 to 9 kg.
Cross country events last longer – between 90 and 105 minutes – and the number of laps is calculated according to time per lap in the men’s and women’s categories. Participants need to complete a pre-established number of laps, and the first to finish is the winner.