Types of Mountain Bike Events
Cross-Country (XC): Cross-country races are held on wooded loops, varying in distance from 5 to 9 miles. One’s ability, age and gender determine how many laps to race. Juniors and beginners usually race 45 minutes to 1 hour, sports and most women race 1 to 1.5 hours, and elite juniors, experts, semi-pros and pros race for 2-2.5 hours.Professional races usually last two hours and range from 22-28 miles for the men and 16-22 miles for the women. Racers pass through the start/finish area at the start of each lap.
Unlike road cycling, riders must repair flat tires and other mechanical problems on their own. Riders usually carry one tire tube and an inflating system with them in their jersey during a race and may take water bottles and energy food from their team staff in the feed zone only. In the summer, cross-country racers usually wear a short-sleeved jersey, cycling shorts, a helmet, glasses, gloves, and cycling shoes.
Marathon: Marathon racing is a relatively new discipline, but it harkens back to the epic races of old; courses usually 100 kilometers long and often are point-to-point or single-loop races. Like their running namesake, marathon mountain bike races are grueling tests of endurance.
Short Track Cross-Country (STXC): Similar to a road cycling criterium, the short track cross-country is a short circuit, mass start event. The course is usually three-quarters of a mile and winds through the central part of the race venue. The race is approximately 20 minutes long and does not have a specific number of laps. The lead riders usually change throughout the race, with the strongest racers taking the helm as the race winds down. During the race, riders falling more than one-half lap behind the race leader are usually pulled.
Downhill (DH): Considered a true gravity race, the downhill is a time trial event that requires riders to maneuver over a sustained descending course. Competitors typically depart the start line in timed intervals usually 30 seconds apart. Professional downhill course times can range from 4-8 minutes, depending on the course. On their way to the finish line, racers face several challenges, including logs, boulders, tight single track and roots. The racer with the fastest time is the winner. Because of the added chance for injury, downhill racers usually wear chest, elbow and knee protection pads, in addition to the items worn by cross-country riders. Downhill helmets are different than cross-country ones in that they are designed more like motorcycle helmets.
Dual Slalom (DS):Like slalom ski races, the dual slalom sends two competitors head to head down two parallel slalom courses. The two courses are as identical as possible, with an average time differential of less than one second. Competitors are given the opportunity to ride each of the courses once. The rider with the lowest combined time is the winner of that heat. Riders who win the heat advance to the next round. Courses usually consist of tight, twisty turns, berms, and jumps. Because of the jumps, dual slalom also offers racers a chance to show off their talents in the air.
Mountain Cross (4X): Mountain Cross, the newest of mountain bike disciplines, pits four riders against each other in a head-to-head manner. Sometimes referred to as Four-Cross, a group of four riders begin together at the top of a technical, challenging and sometimes dangerous course. The first two riders to cross the finish line advance to the next round. Similar to dual slalom, courses are short and consist of jumps, berms and tight, twisty turns.
Observed Trials (OT): Riders attempt to negotiate an obstacle course without putting down a foot or using a hand for balance. Observed trials courses usually include mud, rocks, water, or other natural hurdles.