Mountain Biking

Cross Country Olympic Mountain Biking Rules| What is the Format For XCO at the Rio 2016 Games?

From the riding rules to the restrictions and course details...

What are the rules for the Olympic Cross Country mountain biking event? And how will the format for the Olympic XC pan out?

Here’s a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know before watching the Cross-Country mountain biking at the Olympic Games.

If you want to become a five minute expert, understand all of what’s going on and produce some obscure facts in front of your friends, you’re in the right place.


Olympic Mountain Biking Cross Country XCO at Rio 2016 | The Race Rules and Regulations


The rules for cross country mountain biking Olympics are actually pretty simple in the Games. The race has a mass start, with all of the riders starting at the same time, and the riders then have to finish a set amount of laps around the Olympic cross country mountain bike course, which for Rio de Janeiro will be 5km long. The first rider to cross the finish line after completing the required laps wins the gold.

Any rider whose time is 80% slower than that of the race leader’s first lap is pulled out of the race. He is required to leave the race at the end of his lap in the zone provided for the purpose – the “80%” zone – except when the rider is on their final lap.

Riders who have been pulled out of the race under the 80% rule are listed in the results in the order in which they are pulled out of the race, showing the number of laps down.

The organisers must provide for an Olympic event, a lead bike which will display on its front the number of laps remaining in the race.

Riders must display their numbers on their handlebars and on their back during the race.

Olympic Cross Country Mountain Biking at Rio 2016 | The Course Regulations


The duration and lap length of cross country Olympic mountain biking must be as followed for both men and women:

  • Race time: 1:30-1.45
  • Lap length: 4-6km

The UCI’s rules and regulations also states that “the course for an Olympic format cross-country event should use an attractive lay-out ideally in a cloverleaf design, to encourage easy viewing for spectators and any television coverage.”

The organiser must make the courses available and fully marked for training at least 48 hours before the start of the first race.

Double feed/technical assistance zones are “strongly recommended” and the course must be marked every kilometre by a sign indicating the distance remaining to the finish line.

The course should include a variety of terrain such as road sections, forest tracks, fields and earth or gravel paths, and include significant amounts of climbing and descending. Paved roads cannot make up more than 15% of the course.

The course must be wholly rideable even in difficult weather conditions.

For the Olympic cross-country races, the course must be marked out using stakes or banners and protected for its entire length.

The starting zone for the mass-start Olympic race must be at least six metres wide for at least 50m before the start line and at least metres wide for at least 100m after the start line.

Olympic Mountain Biking Cross Country XCO at Rio 2016 | The Entry Regulations


Men and women over the age of 23 may be entered having obtained at least 20 UCI points in the UCI XCO individual reference ranking. The national federations may enter a maximum of six supplementary riders per category, though of course you’ve got to qualify to ride.

Men and women under 23 may be entered if, in addition to the above, they belong to a UCI Elite MTB team.

Olympic Cross Country Mountain Biking at Rio 2016 | The Bike


The use of tyres that are fitted with metal spikes or screws is not permitted.

No traditional road handlebars may be used. The handlebars extensions of a trialthlon or time trial type are forbidden but traditional barends are authorized.

Hardtails and full-suspension bikes are both allowed, as are a variety of wheel sizes.

Olympic Cross Country Mountain Biking at Rio 2016 | The Details


A rider must act in a sporting manner at all times and must permit any faster rider to overtake without obstructing.

No rider may turn back on the course to reach an assistance zone. Any rider doing so is disqualified.

If a rider exits the course for any reason, they must return to the course at the same point which they exited. If the president of the commissaires panel deems that the rider gained advantage, the rider is disqualified.

Anyone who is found to have altered the course will be disqualified.

The use of radio links to communicate with riders is forbidden.

Inflatable arches crossing the course are prohibited.

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