Cycling is one of the most common outdoor activities across the globe. No matter who you are and which geographical location you belong to, you would have, for sure, tried your hand at cycling during some or the other point in your life.
Even though most of the population enjoys cycling as a fun and a fitness activity, it remains one of the oldest and most important events in the Olympic Games.
Cycling has been a part of the Olympics since the inception of modern Olympics in the 1896 Games at Athens and it is one of the very few sports to have featured in all the editions of the quadrennial event.
Though cycling has been a part of the Olympics for such a long time, what are the different events of the sport which have been contested at the Olympics?
Basically, Cycling in Olympics is competed in four different disciplines – Track Cycling, Road Cycling, Mountain Bike and BMX.
Track Cycling is an event where cyclists race specially built tracks or velodromes using a track bicycle. Though, track cycling has been competed in the Olympics since the 1896 Games, the event was first included in the women’s category only during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
In today’s time, Track Cycling in Olympics is contested in six different categories.
- Keirin: Keirin is a form of cycling race in which the participants sprint for win following a speed-controlled start behind a motorised or non-motorised pacer. This form of cycling was first included in the Olympics during the 2000 Sydney Games and has since been contested every year. It was introduced for women in the Olympics during the 2012 London Games.
- Madison: Madison is a form of track relay cycling with usually two members and sometimes three. It is named after the Madison square in New York. It was first contested in Olympics during the 2000 Sydney Games but was dropped before the 2012 London Olympics citing lack of equality as there was no women’s event in this category. The Madison is though, set to make a comeback during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics with the women’s category set to be held for the first time ever.
- Omnium: Omnium is a multiple race event in track cycling. It consists of a Scratch Race, Tempo Race, Elimination Race and Points Race, as per the changes made in the format after the 2016 season. The Omnium has been part of the Olympics in both men’s and women’s category since the 2012 London Games.
- Team pursuit: In team pursuit, a team of four cyclists compete against each other starting the race from the opposite sides of the velodrome. The objective here is to achieve the fastest time or catch the opponents who started the race at the other end of the track. Team Pursuit was first competed in the Olympics back in the 1908 London Games before being removed for the following edition. The event though, returned for the 1920 Antwerp Olympics and has since always been a part of the quadrennial event. It was introduced for the first time in women’s category during the 2012 London Olympics.
- Individual sprint: Individual sprint is a face-off between two or four cyclists in the velodrome. It is usually held as a 1v1 between cyclists who start on the same side of the track. Individual sprint has always been the part of Olympics except for the 1904 and 1912 Games. It was included in the women’s category for the first time during the 1988 Seoul Games.
- Team Sprint: As the name suggests, Team sprint is a team track cycling event with a three man team in men’s category and a two woman team in the women’s. As in the pursuit events, the teams start on the opposite side of the velodrome where the first cyclist has to complete his laps, followed by the second and third in that order. It was included in the Olympics for the first time during the 2000 Sydney Game and has since always been a part of the quadrennial event. It was hosted for the first time in women’s category during the 2012 London Olympics.
Apart from these six events, various other events like Individual Pursuit, Tandem, Points race, 1 Km Time trial etc. were also contested in the Olympics and were later removed due to some or the other reasons.
Road cycling is the most popular form of cycling. In its modern form, road cycling is said to have been invented in Germany during the early 1800s. People indulge in road cycling as a form of recreation, racing, commuting and utility cycling. It was competed in the Olympics for the first time during the 1896 Athens Olympics and is competed in two main categories in the Olympics during today’s time.
- Individual Road Race: Road race is a form of cycling held on paved roads. In road race, the participants mass start from a position and try to complete the race as fast as possible. Individual Road Race was first held in the Olympics during the 1896 Athens Olympics and was then contested for eight successive editions. It returned to the fold during the 1936 Berlin Games and has since been held in each edition. It was first contested in the women’s category in the Olympics during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
- Individual Time Trail: Time trail is an event where cyclists race against the clock i.e. they try to complete the race in a given time. Individual Time Trail was first contested in the Olympics during the 1912 Stockholm Games and was held in every edition till the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics before being discontinued. The event though returned during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and has since been held in each edition. This event was first contested in the women’s category during the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Other than these, two more events – Team Road Race and Team Time Trial were also contested in the Olympics before being discontinued.
Mountain bike racing is a cycling event which is held on off-road terrain. The only Mountain Bike category contested in the Olympics is the Cross-country. The course for Cross-country consists of mix of rough forest paths, smooth fireroads and also paved paths. Cross-country Mountain Bike has been held in every edition for both men and women since its inception in the Olympics during the 1996 Atlanta Games.
BMX is a form of off-road bicycle racing. It is usually a sprint race on purposely built off-road tracks. BMX is the most recent cycling event in the Olympics and is held in two categories.
- BMX Individual: BMX Individual is a usually a single lap race between individuals in a BMX cycle. It was first introduced in the Olympics during the 2008 Beijing Games and has since been held in every edition for men and women.
- BMX Freestyle: BMX Freestyle is basically a bicycle stunt riding on BMX bikes. It will make its first appearance in the Olympics during the upcoming Tokyo Games in both, men’s and women’s category.