There are three types of cycling races in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games mountain biking, road racing and track racing

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking was first held at the Olympic Games in 1996, and the Commonwealth Games in 2002. There are two mountain biking events; downhill and cross-country. But at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games there is only cross-country mountain biking.

Mountain biking uses different bicycles to those used in other cycling races. They are stronger and have larger tyres.

A rider during a cross country race A rider during a cross country race

The mountain bikers ride around a track which has many narrow dirt trails. They need to last for two-and-a-quarter hours for men's races (40-50kms) and two hours (30-40kms) for the women's races.

The men's races are between 40 and 50 kilometres long. Women's races are 30 to 40 kilometres long.

Road Cycling

In the first modern Olympics in 1896, over one hundred years ago, the road race was 87 kilometres long. This is almost twice as far as the distance of a marathon.

It wasn't until 1984 in Los Angeles that women were allowed to participate in road races. Currently there are two events in the road-racing program for men and women; the road race and the time trials.

A racing bicycle A racing bicycle

The road races have many, many cyclists riding in them. The first one over the finish line wins unlike in time trials.

Riders from the same country usually work together. They use tactics to give their best rider a good chance of winning. The men's road races are 230 to 250 kilometres long. The women's road races are 100 to 140 kilometres long.

Cyclists racing A cycling race

In the time trials the riders race against the clock - the fastest time wins. Each cyclist races by themselves. Every 90 seconds (minute and a half) the next cyclist starts riding. Time trials are 40 to 50 kilometres long for men and 20 to 30 kilometres for women.

Track Cycling

Track racing has been in the Olympic Games for over one hundred years. In 1896 there was a 12 hour long race. It was won by Austria's Adolf Schmal. Track cycling first appeared in the Commonwealth Games in 1938.

Races are held on a smooth oval track, called a velodrome. One lap of an Olympic velodrome is 250 metres long.

Track races are normally either sprint races or endurance races. Sprint races are 1000 metres long or less. Cyclists ride as fast as they can in them.

Velodrome racing A race in a velodrome

Endurance races can be as long as 40 kilometres. Cyclists make sure they keep enough energy to finish the race. There are lots of tactics in these races. This is especially when cyclists are riding in teams.

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