At London 2012, a quartet of challenging, exciting Road Cycling events will energise the streets of London and Surrey.
According to popular legend, the first ever bicycle race was held in Paris in 1868 and was won by a 19-year-old cyclist from Suffolk named James Moore. It goes without saying that the sport has grown since these humble beginnings. More than 140 years after Moore’s triumph, Road Cycling events draw huge crowds and enormous TV audiences around the world. The four Olympic medal events at London 2012 should see the streets of London and Surrey packed with passionate fans. They are likely to be among the largest road cycling events of all time.
Did you know?
Road Cycling did not feature on the Olympic programme at the Paris 1900, St Louis 1904 or London 1908 Games, but has appeared at every Games since 1912.
The first bicycle is thought to have been created by a Frenchman, Comte de Sivrac, in 1790. However, it wasn’t very functional: it lacked a steering system and pedals, and was made of a wooden frame and solid wheels.
The first Olympic Games Road Race in 1896 was from Athens to Marathon, and back again. Only six riders took part.
Canada’s Clara Hughes is one of only four people to have won medals at the Summer Olympic Games and Winter Olympic Games. In Atlanta 1996, she took bronze in the Individual Road Race and Individual Time Trial, while in Salt Lake City 2002 she won bronze in the 5000m Speed Skating.
Road Cycling featured at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, with an 87km race that started and finished in Athens. There was no Road Cycling event at the next three Games, but the discipline was reintroduced in 1912 and has been a permanent part of the Olympic programme ever since. Women have been competing since the Los Angeles 1984 Games.
Find out more about Road Cycling at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.
The Olympic programme includes two Road Cycling events for both men and women. For the Road Race all competitors start together; the first rider to cross the finish line wins gold. For the shorter Time Trial, the riders start at 90-second intervals and the winner is the rider with the fastest time over the course.
Great stamina, astute strategy and powerful acceleration are essential to success in both events, with teamwork also playing a big part in the Road Races.
The men's and women's Road Race is a straight final. In each event all athletes start together, and the first to cross the finish line is the winner. In the Time Trials, athletes start at 90-second intervals and the one to complete the course in the fastest time is the winner.
The Road Race course The Road Race starts on The Mall before the riders head south-west through the city. They then cross the River Thames at Putney Bridge and continue out through Richmond Park, Bushy Park and past Hampton Court Palace.
The Surrey section of the course incorporates several circuits of a challenging loop around Box Hill (nine for the men’s Road Race, two loops for the women’s), before the riders head north through Leatherhead, Esher, Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond Park and back to The Mall for a dramatic finish.
The Time Trial course The Time Trial starts and finishes at Hampton Court Palace in south-west London, and incorporates sections of Richmond, Kingston-upon-Thames and Surrey. Both events are held over a single lap, with slight variations in the men’s and women’s courses reflecting the different distances.
Events are officiated by the panel of race commissaires. There will be a race convoy of more than 100 vehicles out on the course during the Cycling Road Races.
Keys to success
Road Cycling events are extremely tactical. As well as the immense strength and stamina athletes need to complete the course, the winning athletes are those who have judged their pace and positioning to the smallest detail.
Breaking the rules
Without the great reserves of stamina required, especially in the Road Race, riders will get left out of any breakaway groups and be left back with the main pack. Races can also be crowded in places – bumps and crashes are not uncommon, and athletes need to stay alert to keep out of trouble.
Breakaway – a rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind.
Lead-out – a rider who sacrifices his chances for the benefit of his team leader at the end of a Road Race.
Peloton – the main group of riders.
If you want to find out about road cycling in your country, including clubs, facilities and coaching schemes, check the website of your National Governing Body. To find out how you can get involved in road cycling in the UK, go to thegamesandbeyond.com
For more information on the Cycling - Road competition at London 2012 and the rules, go to the website of the International Cycling Union (UCI), the governing body for the sport.