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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.
The members of the Velo Club Mount Tamalpais in California generally receive the credit for establishing mountain biking as a sport. They invented the Repack Downhill race, held regularly between 1976 and 1979 just across the famous Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The races attracted riders from near and far, and the media soon started taking an interest.
The first national mountain bike championships were held in 1983 in the USA. But the sport quickly grew in popularity in Europe and Australia. The first mountain bike World Championships, recognised by the International Cycling Union (UCI), were organised in 1990. Olympic recognition followed and mountain biking made its debut as an Olympic discipline at the Atlanta Games in 1996, with a cross-country event for men and women. The programme has remained unchanged ever since.
Among the big names in this discipline is France’s Julien Absalon, a two-time gold-medal winner - in 2004 in Athens and in 2008 in Beijing.