Cross-country: the Olympic discipline of mountain biking
Cross-Country is the most common practice of mountain biking, and it is a good compromise between thrills and accessibility.
The X-Country is the most accessible of the ATV disciplines, but no less rich in adrenaline. Behind the cryptic initials “XC” is hidden the most popular discipline of ATV and the only one present at the Olympic Games, since Atlanta 1996. It can be practiced on the road or on dirt, in lowland or low-mountain, regardless of the season and the weather. These reasons make it a less dangerous and more accessible sport than freeride, downhill or enduro. It requires only a simple helmet covering the top of the head and can be practiced with an ordinary ATV. A competition bike, usually between 9 and 14 kg and equipped with a telescopic fork, should be more comfortable to perform jumps and absorb the shocks of rough paths. In addition to being open to the general public, Cross-Country has seen the birth of big names in cycling such as the sprinters Cadel Evans and Peter Sagan. It is also recognized by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and its World Championships are held annually.
Thanks to its different levels of practice, The “X-Country” can be used by all types of athletes. For those who love hiking, there is a leisure version available, while competitors can race in different distances: Olympic (between 5 and 9 km), Marathon (between 60 and 120 km) and Eliminator (between 500 m and 1 km). The latest sprint discipline is for adrenaline lovers. The discipline appeared in 2010 and has between four and six participants. The icing on the cake: the course is full of artificial obstacles, forcing fast-moving riders to make very technical jumps.
XC Eliminator (XCE)
The sprint discipline is for adrenaline lovers. This is a very recent discipline, as it made its appearance at the 2011 World Cup for a few test races. In 2013, a complete calendar appeared with five sets. The format is a race of 500m to 1km, 4 to 6 riders competing on the same run, a bit like the four-cross. In the form of a mini-championship, the first two are qualified for the next run until the final winner.
The icing on the cake: the course is full of artificial obstacles, forcing fast-moving riders to make very technical jumps.
XCO practitioners often also participate in this race. The riders use the same bikes as on the XCO, they must be very fast and explosive.
XC Olympic (XCO)
The XCO is a mountain bike race, based on a 4 to 6km long circuit. Called the elite category, the Olympic-size XC race must last between 1h30 and 1h45 for the fastest and a distance between 25 and 60 km. The race format evolved between the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, mainly due to its media coverage. It went from 2:00 to 1:30, resulting in even more nerve-raced and explosive racing.
The start is given at the same time for all competitors. This very intensive race begins on the wheel caps. Since the format is quite short, runners will often be at the limits of their FC max and Pmax. In 2013, the XCO World Cup was divided into five rounds. The winner of the World Cup will be the one with the most points at the end of the year. The world championships will be held in August in South Africa.
The XC bike is a performance-oriented bike. The desired criteria are low weight and stiffness at the expense of comfort. Bicycles must be very fast over a short period of time. They are mostly semi-rigid but, depending on the route, we also find some “all suspended”. The ranges are generally between 80 and 100 mm.
More and more runners are using the 29″, which allows them to gain traction, to better pass the obstacles and to gain in efficiency. More and more XC riders are also using mono-platters, with a 10 or 11 speed cassette, this allows them to save a lot of weight (a platter, no front derailleur, no front shifter), but it’s not yet accessible to everyone!
The position on the bike will also be focused on performance. The reclining position allows for better aerodynamics, but also for more power pedal. This also prevents nose-up in the stiffnesses.
XC Marathon (XCM)
The cross country marathon is the long version of the XCO. The course is not run on a circuit, the mountain bikers have to rally a point B. On the cross-country marathon, the distance should be between 60 and 120km. For the Elite Championships, the minimum will be 80km. The winner of the race must put at least 4 hours.
The bikes on the marathon require more comfort than on the Olympic discipline. The 26″ rigid semi is rather rare here in favor of 26″ all suspended or 29″. The light weight of the bike remains important as well as its rigidity. The bikes must be very fast.