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MTB Racing History

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.

Mountain bike racing is a diverse sport with multiple different disciplines within it. The main ones are Downhill (DH) and Cross-Country (XC) which later was diverted into Cross-Country Olympic (XCO) and Cross-Country Marathon (XCM). Cross-Country sub-disciplines include Cross-Country Short Track (XCC) and Cross-Country Eliminator (XCE).

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. 

Current UCI Disciplines:

  • Cross-country Olympic: XCO

  • Cross-country marathon: XCM

  • Cross-country point-to-point: XCP 

  • Cross-country short track: XCC

  • Cross-country eliminator: XCE

  • Cross-country time trial: XCT

  • Cross-country team relay: XCR

  • Cross-country stage race: XCS

  • Downhill individual: DHI

  • Downhill marathon: DHM

  • Four cross: 4X

  • Enduro: EDR / EDR-E

  • Pump track: PUM

  • Snow Bike: SNO

  • E-Mountain Bike: E-MTB 

  • Trails

Non-UCI Disciplines:

  • Slopestyle

  • Dirt Jump: DJ

  • Freeride: FR

  • Dual Slalom: DS 

  • Super D: SD 

  • MTB Rally 

  • MTB Orienteering: MTB-O

  • 24h MTB Endurance

  • All Mountain: AM

1976 Repack Downhill


Alan Bonds won the first ever MTB race on record, the Repack Downhill on

Mount Tamalpais near Fairfax, CA on October 21st 1976.

In 1983, Repack became the first NORBA sanctioned DH race and Jimmy Deaton was the winner.


1983 US Nationals

The first US NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) Nationals in 1983, would also be the first ever official MTB National Championships.


The race was held in the hills outside Santa Barbara, California.

Steve Tilford (Raleigh) and Jacquie Phelan (Cunningham) won the titles.

Click through the gallery for the Bicycle Sport magazine article, written by John Day and photographed by James Cassimus.

1987 European and NORBA World Championships

In 1987, there were the two first unofficial Mountain Bike World Championships.

The European competitions (Championat du monde VTT)  took place in Villard de Lans, France and was won by Ned Overend (USA) and Mary Lee Atkins (USA).

Ned: " Jacquie met about ten Canadien racers and invited them all to stay with us, they ate all the food , used all the hot water and plugged up the plumbing in the bathroom, but it was still fun times."

US competitions took place at Mammoth Mountain, California, the following weekend.

It was again Ned Overend (USA) who won the American World Champion title in the Men’s Cross-Country category and Sara Ballantyne won the Women's title.

The Downhill category was won by Joe Sloup (USA) and Cindy Whitehead (USA).

Podium photo by Ned Overend

Click through the gallery for the Mountain Bike Action magazine article, written and photographed by Zapata Espinoza.

1988 Grundig MTB Challenge

The Grundig Challenge was the first Mountain Bike World Series in 1988 and preceding the UCI MTB World Cup. Its nine-race circuit covered two continents, Europe and North America, and was sponsored by Grundig.

In 1989, the Grundig Challenge had 5 venues. The 4 first races were Cross-Country races. The finals were held on the legendary Downhill course in Kaprun (AUT).

1990 Grundig Challenge advertisement sticker


1990 UCI MTB World Championships

In 1990, the first official UCI Mountain Bike World Championships were held in DurangoCO (USA)

The Women's Cross-Country was won by Juli Furtado (USA), while Ned Overend (USA) won the Men's race.

In Downhill, Cindy Devine (CAN) was the fastest Women and Greg Herbold (USA) won the Men's category.

Click through the gallery for photos from various photographers, such as Zapata Espinoza and Tom Moran.

1991 UCI MTB Cross-Country World Cup

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup is a multi-round mountain bike racing series that is sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale.


The first UCI XC World Cup race was held in Bassano del Grappa (ITA) in 1991 and won by Tim Gould (GBR) and Juli Furtado (USA).

John Tomac (USA) and Sara Ballantyne (USA) were crowned overall winners after 9 rounds.

Click through the gallery for photos from Sian Hughes

1993 UCI MTB Downhill World Cup

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup is a multi-round mountain bike racing series that is sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale.


The first UCI DH World Cup race was held in Cap d'Ail (FRA) in 1993 and won by Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA) and Giovanna Bonazzi (ITA).

Jürgen Beneke (GER) and Regina Stiefl (GER) were crowned overall winners after 6 rounds.

Click through the gallery for more photos 

1996 Olympic Games

Olympic mountain bike racing made its debut at the 1996 games in Atlanta, GA (USA) with Cross-Country races for Elite Men and Elite Women.

Bart Brentjens (NED) and Paola Pezzo (ITA) were the first ever gold medal winners.

Click through the gallery for more photos from mark Dawson @

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