When mountain bicycles made the bicycle showrooms nearly three decades ago, no one could have foreseen the popularity and incredible evolution the sport has enjoyed. Mountain biking, like its road cycling cousin, has a world championship. There are several categories for the mountain bike championships, and the 2012 competition has all of them, being presented in the Saalfelden-Leogang region of Austria.
There are two main categories for the world championships: cross country and gravity. Gravity cycling is comprised of the downhill and slalom style racing, while the cross country races are long and short course.
For 2012, the UCI - Universal Cycling International - is removing the four-cross downhill race. This is a race that sees four racers line up and head down the course in cut-throat fashion. The UCI decided to remove this and focus more on the downhill courses. Also, the cost of designing a four-cross race course was deemed too much, forcing the UCI to remove it and make the downhill event the premier of the championships. There will be four days of double-elmination downhill races in Leogang starting on August 31.
The UCI has decided to keep both the standard cross country events and add the eliminator races for 2012. Eliminator races have cross country racers in criterium fashion. Criterium racing is done on an enclosed short track with breakneck speeds and tight turns. Expect to see mud fly in this event. The 2012 World Championships are the first of the competitive series to see eliminator races as a cup qualifier.
The cross country races are to be held in the Saalfelden, and take place over three days, with cumulative times being used for the final podium criteria, similar to a grand tour in road cycling.
Spectators are encouraged to attend the World Championships. Admission gets patrons into the race grounds as well as the show tents, athlete village and bicycle showcase. This is a great place to see world class cycling. Many of the athletes racing at the worlds will be coming off Olympic performances, with the 2012 Summer Olympics taking place in London.
The lead up to the worlds takes place over two weeks, with smaller races, eliminations and showcases taking place during this tie. This is due to the increasing popularity of mountain bicycling. When the mountain bike worlds began several years ago, they took place over two days, and were thought more of as kitsch than serious events. Today, with mountain biking as a premier sport, the worlds are one of the biggest events on the mountain biking calendar.
Take advantage of the Mountain Biking World Championship length this year, and head across the Atlantic to Austria to see world class athletes keeping the knobby tires in the mud.
Josh is a lover of all things mountain bikes and will be participating at this year's world championships. He rides every day, not only for the enjoyment, but the fitness that comes with it.