CYCLING - MOUNTAIN BIKE
Cycling - Mountain Bike
First developed as a past-time for thrill-seeking Americans, mountain biking has quickly become one of the most exciting sports on the Olympic schedule.
Riders display an almost care-free attitude as they race with little regard for their own safety at great speeds on varied and testing terrains.
Challenges come at every twist and turn of a cross-country course and include tricky rock hazards, steep climbs and technical descents - all of this while riders battle for position during a race.
The mass start and first-to-the-finish format means that mountain bikers have just one chance to get it right and this adds to the intrigue for spectators, who are able to get close to the action around a course that consists of both grassland and woodland areas.
The excitement begins right from the very start as riders set off together and aim to get to the front, often resulting in collisions and casualties.
Fifty competitors line up for the men's race at the Olympics and 30 for the women's race, with the first rider across the finish line declared the winner.
With races lasting between an hour-and-a-half and two hours, concentration is a key factor as the finest riders have their bike-handling skills and stamina tested to the limit.
Equally important are the high-performance mountain bikes that are used for competition. They need to be durable enough to cope with the difficult terrain, but still light enough to help with climbing and generating speed.
It was in the 1970s that tough new bikes capable of coping with the most challenging of terrains were developed and this gave cyclists much more freedom to leave the streets and go off-road.
The sport first started in California, USA, but its popularity soon spread to Europe and Australia. Seven years after the first national mountain bike championships were held in America, the first mountain bike world championships were held, in 1990.
Soon after, the sport's growing appeal across the world was recognised when it made its Olympic debut at Atlanta 1996, and it has been staged at the Games ever since.
France's Julien Absalon and Italy's Paola Pezzo have already claimed the accolade of winning back-to-back Olympic titles during their racing careers and are two of the most recognisable names in the sport.
Agree with Darrel Meisner.
This discription has been copied out of an American MTB magazine by someone who propably doesn't even have a bicycle in their garage.
In Africa we only had dirt roads and animal tracks to follow. Never thought of claiming the title of "creator of off road riding".
Anyway this XC course is an utter disgrace to the sport. It's a walking track with man made obstacles. Look at any World cup course and it'll have real roots and rocks. What mtbing is all about.
Having lived in the surrounding M25 area there are far more suitable places to host an event, with better scenery and more thrills. And thrills is what the spectators come to see.
Man made obstacles that look foreign actually put people off trying the sport.
Shame on you course designers and who ever signed off contract.
"The sport first started in California, USA"
What a joke. Californians likes to take credit for anything they can.
We were biking "off-road" through the sandy woods and hills of Michigan in the 60's (and my older brothers before that). We had to go 5+ miles from our property before we even found a paved road.
Our bikes were very different than todays (we used 3-speed hubs mostly as the derailer systems wouldn't hold up, cost too much, and more work to fit to the bike) but the trails were just as difficult or more so. I see very little loose sand on todays courses. There's a certain skill to racing down a hill at 30+ mph around curves of loose sand without wiping out or hitting a tree. We had no idea it was the making an Olympic sport - it was just fun!
I'm sure places in other states/countries did the same.
Yes, we were poor - the cool kids had dirt bikes...but we had more fun!
I laugh anytime I hear "it all started in California". They might have gave it name, but that's it.