On Sunday the weather improved somewhat and allowed for more time to wander the exhibits, take in the racing team’s latest hardware and mix with some of the world championship riders.

Mountain biking is one of the few professional sports that doesn't isolate the professionals from their fans. You’re as likely to bump into an Olympic rider as you are one of the amateur racers that are out in droves the week prior, to try their hand on the championship courses.

  This mix of weekend riders, amateur racers and professionals is a refreshing change from traditional sports which promote elitism by segregating the athletes from the fans. Let's hope the sport can hold on to this refreshing approach.  
  If your idea of a bicycle is still that old forty pound ten speed from WallMart, boy, are you in for a surprise. Try saying chrome molybdenum, or if that’s too hard, how about titanium or let's make it easy, try carbon fiber.
  If it’s an exotic material, five will get you ten, you’ll find it on a mountain bike. The kool thing about bikes these days is the less you get, the more it costs.  
Once you have a cross-country bike down to about 24 pounds, the cost to lose a few more ounces starts sky rocketing. You’ll find bikes here that may cost more than your car.

Of course, once you get over the strange materials and wacky pricing, wait until you try to find a bike that even resembles something you rode as a kid.

  How about a "V" shaped frame with over sized tubing or a "Y" shaped monocoque model. What you'll rarely see is the classic triangle of the traditional bicycle frame. A closer look reveals front and rear suspensions, hydraulic disk brakes and indexed twist shifters which are tied to, get this, 27 gears.  
  With all of this, I still think the most startling thing you’ll see are the sponsors. Start with Volvo, Mercedes and Porsche, then move over to the Ralph Lauren team truck. Weird? Not really, since the people attracted to this sport often have a lot of money. How else are they going to afford their $2000 XTR gruppo?
A DAY AT THE RACES continued