London 2012 Guide to…Mountain Biking

MOUNTAIN BIKING is not quite as it sounds. If it was simply climbing mountains, then that would be pretty amazing, no, actually incredible!

But mountain biking is actually more like riding through a farm. And this is precisely what all 80 riders will be doing this summer in London.

  • Californication

Like fine wine and gold among other things, California is famous for being the place where mountain biking really took off. The sport was seen their in the 1970s in the hills of northern California and it soon became a worldwide activity.

The first World Championship took place in 1990 and Mountain Biking made its debut appearance in Atalanta in 1996.

  • Balance

Balance is key in Mountain Biking, and it’s not just about keeping two wheels on the ground.

It’s about negotiating the course in the quickest possible time, while trying to avoid damage to the bike (something very likely to happen considering the terrain).

The bikes are obviously light to help with speed but this makes them more prone to those little problems that can take vital seconds to repair.

And yes, riders do carry their own tool kit with them, so it’s DIY!

  • Mountain Biking in London

Men and women compete in separate races on Hadleigh Farm in Essex – with 50 male competitors and 30 female.

However, don’t bank on them all to finish, as only 28 men out fo 50 finished the course in Beijing.

The men’s course is approximately 45km, while the women’s is 35km. This consists of several laps of the course.

Riders lapped by the leader are eliminated though, as are those who have severely damaged their bike and are unable to repair it at the time.

  • Ones to watch out for

Julien Absalon will be hoping for a third successive gold medal in the men’s race, having won in both Athens in 2004 and Beijing four years later.

Sabine Spitz won women’s gold in 2008 and is one of the favourites for the title this summer.

And finally…

Look out for: punctures. Unfortunately for riders, all too common and will no doubt means the end of Olympic dreams for some of the riders.

Not to be confused with: the Tour de France’s mountain stages. It’s completely different.

Useless but informative fact: California’s Mount Tamalpais is known as the first mountain where the sport was first contested.

Mountain Biking in two words: stay on!

The Mountain Biking races take place over the weekend 11/12 August at Hadleigh Farm in Essex.