COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- There's no big-name rider, like Lance Armstrong, and no marquee event, like the Tour de France. There are only bumpy trails, steep downhill portions and tight corners, and that's more than enough for fast-developing mountain bikers.
The once-extreme discipline hasn't quite become mainstream, but it's definitely growing, kept afloat by passionate packs of riders, resembling the ones in the USA Cycling junior national talent identification camp that began Thursday at the Olympic Training Center.
USA Cycling registered 21 percent of its membership last year in mountain biking, with 12,086 riders and 950 officials. Road, track and cyclo-cross combined for 39,565 riders.
Limited sponsorships and tiny paychecks prevent most mountain bikers from darting into the spotlight, and a lack of TV exposure doesn't help. Then again, American riders have one medal in four Olympics -- a bronze by Susan DeMattei at the inaugural 1996 race.
Joan Walker, 17, of Bayfield, Colo., maintains mountain biking offers as much of a challenge as road cycling because "you need to know when to attack, when to fall back, when to take it easy, when to let someone go in front of you, when you need to pass."
"It doesn't come down to people drafting off each other," said Skyler Trujillo, 17, of Fort Collins. "You can attack someone and demoralize them and get an advantage on them."