Olympic mountain bike racing is exclusive to cross-country with riders all starting together and racing laps between three and six kilometres.
The sport began its professional existence in 1990 and joined the Olympic Programme just six years later when it was introduced during Atlanta 1996.
Riders are seeded on a starting grid according to their current world ranking and after a mass start complete a specified number of laps of the course. The first rider to cross the finish line is the winner. The course is an undulating circuit designed to produce a specific winning time, and not a specific distance
The number of laps is determined at the latest two hours before the start of the race to determine the optimum finish time. The decision depends on the track and weather conditions.