Cross-country cycling

Cross-country (XC) cycling is a discipline of mountain biking. Cross-country cycling became an Olympic sport in 1996 and is the only form of mountain biking practiced at the Olympics.[1]

Mountain biker 04
A cross-country mountain biker on a trail in Utah.


Cross-country cycling is defined by the terrain on which it is performed. XC courses and trails consist of a mix of rough forest paths and singletrack (also referred to as doubletrack depending on width), smooth fireroads, and even paved paths connecting other trails. Until recently cross-country trails were deemed "easy" or "intermediate", due to the concept that this discipline of mountain biking relies more on physical prowess than technical ability. These days however, some paths can be difficult and challenging including grade 3 and 4 trails consist of technical rooty and rocky sections and small and other elements like drops and steep descents to challenge even the experienced riders in the XC World Cup and Summer Olympic Games.

Bikes and equipment

XC MTB 17 Stevage
South African Burry Stander winning on a dual-suspension Specialized.

Cross-country bicycles are some of the lightest mountain bikes, typically between 7 and 16 kilograms (15 and 35 lb). They usually feature suspension forks in front and sometimes have suspension in the rear. In both the front and rear, most XC bicycles have approximately 100 millimetres (10.0 cm; 3.9 in) of suspension travel, although some riders prefer 125 to 150 millimetres (12.5 to 15.0 cm; 4.9 to 5.9 in) of travel as bicycle frame strength and technology advance. The geometry of the frames generally place the rider in a little more upright position than on a road bicycle but much less than on a downhill bike.

Bicycle helmets are often used for cross-country riding.[2] However, XC riders only rarely wear full-face helmets and do not wear the full body "armour" employed by downhill riders. Cross-country cyclists are more prone to injuries than road cyclists; however, the injuries sustained by XC riders are usually not as severe.[3]


A cross-country mountain biking race.

Cross-country racing emphasizes endurance above technical prowess, and races vary from 30 minutes to 24 hours in length. Additionally, many mountain bike races are divided up into stages so as to span several days. Races can be either point-to-point or lap-based. Short-track cross-country consists of many very short laps so as to be spectator-friendly.

Unlike downhill races, which are conducted in a time trial format, cross-country races traditionally feature a mass start or interval start, where riders are released in several large groups divided by age and/or ability. Races with very large fields that do not wish to stagger starts will sometimes employ a Le Mans start where racers begin by running to their bikes.

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Start line for the under 23 men's cross-country race at the 2009 UCI World Championships.

Globally, XC racing is governed by the Union Cycliste Internationale. In the United States, it is under the purview of USACMTB a division of USA Cycling. In the United Kingdom, British Cycling is the governing body.

Racing disciplines

There are some XC racing disciplines, like XCE ( Cross-Country eliminator ), XCO ( Cross-Country Olympic ) or XCM ( Cross-Country Marathon ).

Cross-Country Eliminator (XCE)

A race where the last person or the last two people who go through the finish line are out of the race.

Cross-Country Olympic (XCO)

Consists of a lap racing around a short circuit. It's the only discipline which is in the Olympics, and high mountain bike skills are required.

Cross-Country Marathon (XCM)

With a route usually between 65 and 100 km. It has gained popularity in the last years, because XCM competition participation is open to everyone, including beginners. Just finishing the race is an achievement for some people.

Wheel size

XC MTB 4 Stevage
Course used at the 2009 UCI World Championships in Australia.

In cross-country, more than other areas of mountain biking, a debate has begun over the optimal wheel size. The 26-inch wheel size that was settled on with the inception of the current age of mountain biking has all but died off at the top level of cross-country racing as 27.5 inch (650b) and 29 inch wheels are much more popular now. 650b wheels are 584 mm diameter wheels, and approximately 27.5" with a mounted tire.

650b bikes are becoming ever more prevalent, while 29" bikes, or "29ers" experienced rapidly gaining popularity in the mid to late 2000s, and having some success in cross-country racing, but more so in marathon cross-country. A notable boost to their popularity came with Lance Armstrong, racing and winning on a Gary Fisher 29er.[4] Advantages to the larger wheel formats are less need for suspension due to a decreased angle of attack, and also less loss of momentum. Disadvantages include increased weight, decreased acceleration, higher rolling inertia, rider fit issues for those under 5'5" (165 cm), and slower handling, although handling issues are being addressed successfully in newer designs with geometry changes like steeper head tube angles and higher fork offsets. A further disadvantage is that, all other variables (spoke number, rim design and material, etc.) being equal, a 26" wheel will be much stronger than a 29" one.

See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-23. Retrieved 2007-02-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Mountain Biking in the Olympics
  2. ^ Attewell RG, Glase K, McFadden M (May 2001). "Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis". Accid Anal Prev. 33 (3): 345–52. doi:10.1016/S0001-4575(00)00048-8. PMID 11235796. Archived from the original on 2018-05-04.
  3. ^ Chow TK, Bracker MD, Patrick K (August 1993). "Acute injuries from mountain biking". West. J. Med. 159 (2): 145–8. PMC 1022220. PMID 8212679.
  4. ^ Shop, Quick Stop Bike (17 December 2008). "Quick Stop Bike Shop: Lance Armstrong Winning on a Gary Fisher Superfly". Archived from the original on 14 March 2018. Retrieved 4 May 2018.

External links

Media related to Cross-country mountain biking at Wikimedia Commons

Anna Szafraniec

Anna Szafraniec (born 16 February 1981) is a Polish mountain biker.

She was born in Myślenice. She competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics, in women's cross-country cycling.

Cross Country Cycling Classic

The Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic is a one-day amateur cycling race held in Belize every year during the Easter holidays. It is Belize's biggest cycling event and has begun to be recognized internationally.

Cycling at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Men's cross-country

The men's cross-country cycling event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London took place at Hadleigh Farm on 12 August.Fifty cyclists from 32 countries competed. Jaroslav Kulhavý from the Czech Republic won the gold medal, beating Switzerland's Nino Schurter by one second.

Cycling at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Women's cross-country

The women's cross-country cycling event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London took place at Hadleigh Farm on 11 August.

Julie Bresset from France won the gold medal — the country's first in cycling at the 2012 Games. Germany's Sabine Spitz won silver and Georgia Gould of the United States took bronze.

Cycling at the 2015 European Games – Men's cross country

The men's cross-country cycling event at the 2015 European Games in Baku took place at Mountain Bike Velopark on 13 June.

Cycling at the 2015 European Games – Women's cross country

The women's cross-country cycling event at the 2015 European Games in Baku took place at Mountain Bike Velopark on 13 June.

Cycling at the 2016 Summer Olympics – Men's cross-country

The men's cross-country cycling event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro took place at the Mountain Bike Centre on 21 August.The medals were presented by Denis Oswald, IOC member, Switzerland and Brian Cookson, President of the UCI Management Committee.

Cycling at the 2016 Summer Olympics – Women's cross-country

The women's cross-country cycling event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro took place at the Mountain Bike Centre on 20 August.The medals were presented by Tricia Smith, IOC member, Canada and Emin Muftuoglu, Member of the UCI Management Committee.


Cyclo-cross (sometimes cyclocross, CX, cyclo-X or 'cross) is a form of bicycle racing. Races typically take place in the autumn and winter (the international or "World Cup" season is October–February), and consist of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount. Races for senior categories are generally between 30 minutes and an hour long, with the distance varying depending on the ground conditions. The sport is strongest in the traditional road cycling countries such as Belgium (Flanders in particular), France and the Netherlands.

Cyclo-cross has parallels with mountain bike racing, cross-country cycling and criterium racing. Many of the best cyclo-cross riders cross train in other cycling disciplines; however, cyclo-cross has reached such size and popularity that some racers are specialists, and many prioritize cyclo-cross races over other disciplines. Cyclo-cross bicycles are similar to road racing bicycles: lightweight, with somewhat narrow tires and drop handlebars. They are typically differentiated by their greater tire clearances, lower gearing, stronger frames, cantilever brakes or disc brakes and more upright riding position. They also share characteristics with mountain bicycles in that they use knobby tread tires for traction and, increasingly, disc brakes. They have to be lightweight because competitors need to carry their bicycle to overcome barriers or slopes too steep to climb in the saddle. The sight of competitors struggling up a muddy slope with bicycles on their shoulders is the classic image of the sport, although unridable sections are generally a very small fraction of the race distance.

Compared with other forms of cycle racing, tactics are fairly straightforward, and the emphasis is on the rider's aerobic endurance and bike-handling skills. Drafting, where cyclists form a line with the lead cyclist pedaling harder while reducing the wind resistance for other riders, is of much less importance than in road racing where average speeds are much higher than in cyclo-cross.

A cyclo-cross rider is allowed to change bicycles and receive mechanical assistance during a race. While the rider is on the course on one bike, their pit crew can clean, repair and oil a spare.

Daniel McConnell (cyclist)

Daniel McConnell (born 9 August 1985) is an Australian cross-country mountain biker. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, he competed in the Men's cross-country at Hadleigh Farm, finishing in 21st place. This was an improvement on his 39th-place finish at the 2008 Summer Olympics.At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he won the bronze medal in the men's cross-country cycling, finishing ten seconds behind the winner.His mother, Jenny Orr, competed at the 1972 Summer Olympics in the 800 and 1500 metres athletics.

Demino Ski Marathon

The Demino Ski Marathon (Russian: Дёминский лыжный марафон) is a cross-country skiing marathon in Russia. It has been held since 2007 and was appointed as a Worldloppet event in June 2012. It is the most popular ski race in Russia (1402 participants in 2015).

The Demino Ski Marathon is a member of the Russialoppet since 2008.

The main distance is 50 km free style, in one or two laps. The race is held on Ski Center Demino, near Rybinsk city. The ski marathon is a part of the Demino Cup, which includes also a cross-country cycling marathon and running half-marathon.

The marafon was cancelled only once in 2014 due to lack of snow.


Felix Beckeman

Felix Beckeman (born in November 21, 1991) is a Swedish athlete that competes in mountain biking with a specificity in cross-country cycling. He was the winner of a gold medal in the European Mountain Bike Championships in 2012.In 2017, he won the Four-Cross World Championships in Val di Sole Trentino, Italy.

Hadleigh Farm

Hadleigh Farm is an educational working farm and cross-country cycling venue located in Hadleigh, within the borough of Castle Point, in the county of Essex. The men's and women's mountain biking events of the 2012 Olympic Games took place at Hadleigh Farm on 11 and 12 August.

Karen Hanlen

Karen Hanlen (born 28 March 1980) is a New Zealand mountain biker. She represented New Zealand at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, competing in the women's cross-country cycling event.

King Tornado

The King Tornado represent King University in intercollegiate sports. They are members of Conference Carolinas at the NCAA Division II level. Men's teams compete in baseball, basketball, cross-country, cycling, golf, soccer, swimming/diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling. Women's teams compete in acrobatics/tumbling, basketball, cheerleading, cross-country, cycling, dance, golf, soccer, softball, swimming/diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling.

Magdalena Sadłecka

Magdalena Sadłecka (born 17 March 1982) is a Polish mountain biker.

She was born in Łódź. She competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics, in women's cross-country cycling.

Maja Włoszczowska

Maja Martyna Włoszczowska (Polish pronunciation: [ˈmaja marˈtɨna vwɔʂˈt͡ʂɔfska]; born 9 November 1983 in Warsaw) is a Polish mountain biker. She is the 2008 and 2016 Olympic silver medalist in cross-country cycling.

Outline of cycling

This article is an outline about the activity of cycling. For an outline about bicycles themselves, see outline of bicycles.The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to cycling:

Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, or for sport. Persons engaged in cycling are cyclists or bicyclists. Apart from ordinary two-wheeled bicycles, cycling also includes riding unicycles, tricycles, quadracycles, and other similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).

Shlomi Haimy

Shlomi Haimy (שלומי חיימי; born 19 June 1989) is an Israeli Olympic mountain cyclist who specializes in cross-country cycling.

General and technical
Utility and slow
Sports-related cycling and
fast-paced recreation
Health, safety and


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