Aim of the game
Competing over an off-road course, mountain bike riders must adapt quickly to the tough, varied terrain in order to cross the finish line ahead of their rivals
Why should you watch this?
A thrilling combination of speed, power, endurance, skill and tactics produces exciting races with close finishes – crashes and mechanical problems only add to the drama
Narrow section of mountain bike trail needing skill and precision to ride at high speed
A mixture of rocks strategically placed in part of the course to make it technically demanding for riders
When a rider has a problem with their bike, for example a puncture or detached chain
Impress your friends
Mountain biking originated in California in the 1970s, when cyclists took old bikes out exploring the trails and tracks north of San Francisco
In 1976 these riders created a race that demanded adaptations to existing bikes, and from there the modern mountain bike was born
Bart Brentjens was knighted by the King of the Netherlands after winning the first mountain bike Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 – arise Sir Bart, the Flying Dutchman!
France is the world leader in Olympic mountain bike racing, winning at least one medal at each Games
Germany's Sabine Spitz has the full set of medals from three successive Olympic Games: bronze at Athens 2004, gold at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012
A mountain bike circuit should not include more than 15% of flat terrain, demanding explosive force on uphill parts and speed and technical ability on the downhills
If something breaks on their bike, cyclists must fix it themselves or get to the 'Technical Assistance Zone' where their team mechanics can help
The multiple lap cross-country format is used for mountain bike racing in the Olympic Games. The first cyclist to complete all the laps and cross the finish line wins the race.
Cyclists compete on a course comprising narrow stone and grass trails, with steep uphill and downhill sections that often include natural obstacles, such as rocks and logs. The circuit is 5km long, but men complete more laps than women.
A race lasts on average between 90 minutes and 2 hours, from the start until the last competitor finishes.
Competitors can be passed energy snacks and water bottles, often containing energy drinks, from team helpers in the 'feed zone' on each lap.
Designed to absorb impact while still reaching high speeds, modern mountain bikes are lightweight (8-9kg), with carbon-fibre frames, suspension and broad tyres.
Riders must wear a helmet, which is vented to help keep them cool. Clothing is aerodynamic and lightweight: short-sleeved jerseys and shorts allow the skin to 'breathe'.
Athletes & Teams
|16 - 20||4|
|21 - 25||35|
|26 - 30||24|
|31 - 40||35|