Cycling has become one of the nation’s favourite sports when it comes to the Olympic Games.
Team GB has mined gold from track cycling events like there’s no tomorrow in recent editions of the Games, and fans will be hoping Tokyo 2020 is no different.
Excitement is building as riders gear up to take on challenges across multiple incredibly different disciplines on two wheels.
Athletes will compete on the sprawling road and mountain courses, in the pressure cooker intensity of the Izu Velodrome for track events and flash their urban creativity in the BMX events throughout the Olympics.
We’re on hand to bring you up to speed with some of the names to keep an eye out for during the huge couple of weeks for sport with cycling at the heart of it all.
RadioTimes.com brings you the lowdown on cycling at the Olympics in 2021 with a host of Team GB stars primed to thrill across the events.
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When is cycling at the Olympics?
Cycling runs between Saturday 24th July until Sunday 8th August.
Medal finals are spread out throughout the Games across multiple cycling disciplines.
Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.
Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.
What cycling events are in the Olympics?
There will be 22 cycling events, split across the road, track, mountain and BMX disciplines.
Road and mountain cycling
On the road there will be individual efforts against the clock in the Time Trials and mass-start road races – although there remains some controversy about the fact that the gruelling climbs of Mount Fuji and Mikuni Pass have been omitted from the women’s race.
With maximum gradients of an agonising 20 per cent, Mikuni makes it unlikely that the traditional fast-finishing sprinters will still be in contention when the race reaches its finishing circuits on Fuji Speedway. Medals are more likely to go to lightweight climbing specialists or a “puncheur” who specialises in short, steep climbs.
Fuji Speedway and its surroundings will also be home to the the men’s and women’s time trials, covering 44 and 22km respectively. The rolling hills dotted along the course should mean that the powerhouse TT specialists will face some competition from the lighter all-rounders.
On the track there will be the usual motor-paced keirin race, as well as the sprint, team-sprint and multi-discipline omnium, while the two-rider madison race, in which riders take turns to throw each other into the action, makes a welcome return.
Off the boards and into the mud, the XCO (cross-country Olympic) course will feature four laps with an elevation gain of 150 metres on each lap – that’s a huge amount of grinding up muddy, bumpy hills.
BMX racing and freestyle
Finally, there’s the short, explosive BMX racing and the newly added BMX Freestyle, in which competitors have 60 seconds to carry out tricks and stunts on a variety of obstacles in front of a panel of judges.
Which Team GB cyclists will compete in the Olympics?
Recent Olympics have seen Team GB treat the cycling events as an all-you-can-eat medal buffet. The British track cycling team contains no fewer than six Olympic champions including household names such as Jason and Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker and Kate Archibald.
Among the most exciting British prospects is 21-year-old Tom Pidcock, a multiple World Champion known for crossing the finish line lying on his saddle with his arms outstretched in a Superman pose. The irrepressible Yorkshireman will compete in the XCO, as will former national champion Evie Richards.
On the road we’ll see three former Grand Tour winners in the shape of Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghagen-Hart and Simon Yates, along with Simon’s equally talented brother Adam. The fierce climbing on the road route will suit the Yates brothers, who are strong on the sort of gradients that reduce other riders to wobbling uphill. Freshly bruised from the Tour de France, Thomas and Geoghagen-Hart will also be riding the Time Trial.
Lizzie Deignan will be competing in the women’s event. Although primarily known for her fast finish, the former world champion also counts TT and hill climbs among her wins and is a strong all-rounder. She’ll be joined by 20-year-old Olympic debutante Anna Shackley.
Who are the top Olympic cyclists?
Cycling has seen an unprecedented explosion of young talent over the past few seasons, with a number of riders who look likely to be not just the best of their generation, but among the best of all time. Aside from Tom Pidcock, it’s worth keeping an eye on Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel in the Men’s Time Trial and the Netherland’s Mathieu van der Poel – fresh from a spell leading the Tour de France – in the XCO.
Rio 2016 gold medallist Anna van der Breggen is a strong contender to defend her medal in the road race, and will also ride the Time Trial alongside her Dutch compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten, who should really be better known for her many world championship wins than she is for her back-breaking crash at the last Olympics.
The Olympic cycling events will take place daily between 24th and 27th July, while the track cycling events happen daily between 2nd and 8th August.
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