The London 2012 Olympics will feature the United States competing for the gold medal in the sport of Olympic mountain biking. The United States will be competing in both the men's and women's mountain biking events. The first will be the women's competition which will commence on August 11, 2012. Mountain biking is a newer sport which has only been an Olympic event since the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.
The following is a list of 10 terms that will help viewers understand what is happening when the riders take to the course.
Course: This refers to the actual trails on which the riders will compete. This year's competitors will ride on a 550 acre site called Hadleigh Farm which is just east of London. The course was constructed from scratch for the Olympic races.
Starting Grid: All racers will begin in a group at the starting line. However, they are placed from front to back respective to their qualifying times. Therefore, it may take some time for the leaders to separate from the rest of the pack. This should be no problem as the races typically last for over two hours.
Climbs: A great deal of training is needed to compete in this sport at the highest levels. The Olympics are no exception. Because the sport developed in the hills of Northern California, the Olympic competition includes a number of uphill climbs that will separate the elite medalists from the competition.
Downhills: As the old truism goes, what goes up, most come down. In addition to the twists and turns of the course, these segments are some of the most exciting to watch as the speeds increase to allow riders to make a break for the front of the pack.
Laps: In mountain biking the course is either one long trail or a closed loop. In the 2012 competition riders will be aiming to complete three long laps before they are able to reach the finish line
Technical Zone: Throughout the race, many things can go wrong with the bikes. The technical zone is the mountain biking equivalent to the pit stop in auto racing, where riders will visit when in need of repair.
Commissaries: This is the name of the officials in Mountain Biking. The commissaries are charged with monitoring the entire race from start to finish. They are also at the site of the technical zones.
Pinch Flat: One of the challenges the racer's face is the terrain which is often uneven and not very smooth. Years of training can be jeopardized by a pinch flat, the term used to describe a flat tire caused by the inner tube having been pinched by the rim.
Kick-out: A kick-out is a technique used by riders when making a sharp turn. Essentially, the rear wheel is kicked out far to the side which is used to take the turn as quickly as possible while preventing other riders from passing.
Full-sus: Full-sus is a shortened way of referring to the bike as having a full suspension. This means the bike has both front and rear shocks. Some riders choose this while others choose to have shock absorbers only on the front of the bike.