A brief history of the World Championships

15 August 2022 in Race - 4 min read

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Mountainbiking is a rather new sport. The sport has its roots in the USA, where the first races have been organized in the late 1970s to early 80s. However, it took some time before the first World Championships - under the wings of the UCI - were organized.

The first ever UCI World Championship was held in 1990 in Durango, USA. Since then, World Championships are held at different places every year.

The upcoming World Championship in Les Gets is the 33rd edition in mountain bike history.

Read on to learn more about the history of the UCI World Championships.

World Championships were held on four continents

The World Championships were hosted on four different continents. Although the sport has its roots in the US, most of the World Championships were held in Europe.

The second most World Champs were hosted on the American continent with seven events, followed by Oceania with four and one World Championship was held in Africa.

The only continent that did not host the Worlds yet remains Asia.

The Worlds were organized in 16 Different Countries

In total, the World Championships were hosted in 16 different countries.

Italy, Switzerland, and Canada share the top spot for hosting World Championships on four occasions each.

USA, France, Austria, and Australia follow in second place with three editions each. Those are the only countries that hosted World Champs on multiple occasions.

27 Different Cities Hosted World Championships

Overall there have been 27 different host cities to date.

The top spot for the host cities again goes to Canada: Mont Saint Anne has hosted the World Championships three times.

The second spot is once again shared between multiple cities: Vail (USA), Cairns (AUS), Val di Sole (ITA), and now Les Gets (FRA) were each two times host to the World Championships.

Third World Championship in France

As stated above, the 2022 World Championships in Les Gets are the third time France is hosting the world's best mountain bikers to fight for glory.

M├ętabief hosted the World Championship in 1993, with Henrik Djernis from Denmark and Paola Pezzo from Italy taking the rainbow jerseys.

The second World Championship on french soil was in 2004: Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja from Norway and no less than Frenchman Julian Absalon won the world titles. For Julian Absalon, it was for sure a special one: winning his first rainbow jersey on home soil in Les Gets.

The sport has since changed very much with shorter race lengths, more technical descents, and better equipment, and naturally so has the track changed for the 2022 World Championships.

Check out the track details, elevation profile, and a short clip of the track on our overview page!

Past Winners

In the 32 years of past World Championships, there have been 17 different winners in the men's competition and 20 different women who won a World Champion title at least once.

Henrik Djernis won three consecutive titles from 1992 to 1994 and is in third place in the list of all-time winners.

Second place goes to Julien Absalon for winning five titles in his career. He gained four of them in a row between 2004 and 2007. Absalon won his last title in 2014 in Hafjell (NOR).

But even throwing all titles in one pot, Djernis and Absalon come short for Nino Schurter. To date, Schurter has added nine World Championship titles to his name. Between 2015 and 2019, he was unbeatable and won five years in a row.

The women's category seems to be a bit more competitive. The third spot is shared between three riders: Catharine Pendrel, Julie Bresset, and Paola Pezzo won two rainbow jerseys during their careers each.

Alison Sydor, Margarita Fullana, and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot each won three World Championship titles. There is only one rider who won more titles: Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja. The Norwegian has added four World Championship gold medals to her Palmares.

Curious who won the first-ever World Championship? Check out the table below.

Ready to write history

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Nino Schurter are both able to make themselves immortal.

If Schurter wins another rainbow jersey, he will - once again - write history for winning 10 world championship titles, as the first rider ever.

With Ferrand-Prevot winning another title, she can match the current record holder Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja. The Frenchwoman will for sure be extra-motivated in front of her home crowd.

But this is no easy feat. The World Cup season showed us, that there are a lot more riders, that you should have on your list.