With the creation of bikes designed to withstand impacts typically experienced on a trail came the global recognition of Mountain Biking as an outdoor sport. In 1996 at the Olympic Games in Atlanta Mountain Bike Cross-Country (MTB Cross-country) was officially recognized as an Olympic sport.

Qualifying - tokyo 2020

Qualification to secure spots at the Olympic Games is based around the number of qualifying points earned in the two years prior to the Games, at UCI World Cups, World Championships and other qualifying events for mountain biking.

The New Zealand Cycling Teams selections for mountain biking in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are still to be determined, likley by the end June 2021.


The Mountain Bike competition runs from the 26-27 July and will be held at the Izu MTB Course.

The 4100m course features mostly narrow, dirt single-track trails with steep ascents and descents as well as rocky sections. The race will feature a mass start and multiple laps with the first rider to complete all of the required laps winning the gold medal. It is estimated that riders will take between 90-105 minutes to complete the course with riders whose time is 80% slower than that of the race leader’s first lap being eliminated.

The course is said to be set harder than previous Olympic courses with an elevation difference of 150m however riders and spectators will be treated to sweeping views of Mt Fuji from the course.

Cycling terminology

Bail: Leaping of the bike to avoid a more serious crash.

Berm: A banked corner.

Roller: An obstacle on a track that is rolled over as opposed to being jumped.

Tabletop: A jump on a track that is completely level or flat all the way across it from the lip to the landing.


1817 - First bicycle introduced as a mode of transport in Germany.

1891 - First major competition event (Paris-Brest-Paris) held. Soon after velodromes were built in many cities throughout Europe, the USA and Japan.

1896 - Cycling was included in the first modern Olympic Games and has been at every summer Olympic Games since.

1903 - Tour de France began, cycling's most famous race.

1970s - Off-road mountain biking began about the same time as BMX, now both Olympic cycling disciplines.

1996 - Mountain biking debuted at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

2012 - Women competed in the same full programme of events as men for the first time at the London Olympic Games. 


Did you know?

In the 1970s, mountain biking developed as a fringe sport in California. Taking a bike off-road was nothing new but the development of a new bike that relished such terrain was; these bikes had fatter tyres, rapid-shift gears, drum brakes and ground-breaking suspension. These bikes gave thrill seeking cyclists a much more freedom and the sport of mountain biking was born.

Just like spandex stops chaffing, leg shaving also serves a purpose – it makes getting gravel out of injuries and applying ointment much easier, and it also makes massage less difficult for the massage therapist.

France, with 73 medals, is the most successful Olympic cycling nation.

The best all-time performing cyclist at the Olympic Games is British cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy, who added to his tally at the 2012 London Games to make it six gold medals in total.

On average, a pro-cyclist can ride around 40,000km a year. That's the same distance it would take to go from Los Angeles to New York City 10 times. 

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Cycling - Mountain Bike Games History