If Bradley Wiggins’ victory in the Tour de France has piqued your interest in cycling, you’re in luck - the very first medals to be awarded at the 2012 Olympics will go to the road cyclists, whose event kicks off the Games on Saturday.
The British team, complete with World Champion sprinter Mark Cavendish and Tour winner Wiggins, will be fighting for a win on The Mall, but they won’t have it all their own way: the 250km race is a bubbling mix of tactics, as different riders attempt to bring their particular strengths to bear in a decisive fashion.
It begins and ends on The Mall in London - in between are nine testing ascents of Surrey's Box Hill. The route, approximately 250km for the men, is designed to give different types of rider the opportunity to use their skills. Under ordinary circumstances, the climb of Box Hill after 64Km wouldn’t bother professionals, but going over it nine times (144km) at race pace will be difficult for the heavily-muscled sprinters who ride in the German and GB teams. The lightweight breakaway specialists in the French and Belgian teams will try to escape here, but the flatter final 48km on the run back to the Mall means that the sprinters’ teams will have a chance to reel them back in. Whether or not you’re cheering for Team GB, Mark Cavendish is the favourite to win and the one to watch.
The women’s event takes place over a shorter course of 140km, and features two laps of the Box Hill loop rather than nine.