4X – A history of cycling’s most action packed sport
Head to head racing will always be some of the most exciting and dramatic sports for spectators. A clear winner as the athletes cross the finish line is simple to understand and easy to promote.
This realization came for mountain bike racing in the 1990’s when a short, fast race format was explored that was called dual slalom. Two separate race tracks were created parallel to each other and normally consisted of flags marking out the tracks on a grassy hillside. Races were fun and it certainly brought some entertainment to Cross Country mountain bike events on a Saturday night. However, races seemed to drag on a little bit and there lacked an extreme nature. The full potential was yet to be discovered.
In the mid 1990’s the world governing body for cycling – UCI and TV company – Eurosport worked together to create a new sport – Dual, where there were still only two riders racing, but they were on the same race track. This track had become much more extreme with jumps, banked corners and high speed but again, there were problems. Races were often settled through crashes, and the format was confusing to spectators.
In the year 2000, 4X was born. Now the smart, tactical rider would prevail, as you could not just knock an opponent off and win. Four riders raced against each other on the same track. Big banked corners, huge jumps and high speed now gave the riders, the sponsors, the spectators, the governing bodies and most importantly the TV companies a sport that had everyone on the edge of their seats with excitement, as the riders were whittled down through the knockout stages until a winner was crowned.