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Guide to Olympic Cycling Events

Let’s take a tour through the list of cycling events in the history of the Olympic Games

Guide to Olympic Cycling Events
Written by Editorial

The sport of cycling is just unparalleled in the amount of joy and intensity it generates. Two wheels, but several ways to cherish the champions who consider pedaling and breathing as one. 

And the sport received its deserved recognition when in 1896, it was introduced in the Olympics. The initial event of the Olympics held at Athens had a road race and 5 different track events. 

1. Track Cycling 

This is an event where the cyclists’ race on tracks or velodromes using a track bicycle. It is one of the few events to have been organized since 1896. 

Today, this event is divided into six categories:


Keirin is a specialized race where cyclists start together behind a motorized bike for the initial 4.5 laps. Once the bike, known as derny, reaches a maximum speed of 50 km/hr, they leave the track. Then, the cyclists are on their own with no speed restrictions for the remaining 3.5 laps. 

This race has its origin rooted in Japan where it was used for betting purposes. After significant refining of the rules and safety protocols, Keirin is now a much-awaited event in the Olympic arena.


This is a unique race, being reintroduced in the Tokyo Olympics. Consider it to be a track relay event where a pair of cyclists take turns to complete a predetermined set of laps. Right now, the count is at 200 laps for men and 120 for women. 

The most exciting part of this race is the changeover where the riding cyclist propels the resting cyclist into action with a slinging action. Also, this event is named after the popular Madison Square in New York. 


This event is a true test of the cyclists’ abilities. The omnium is a multiple race event that focuses on testing the all-round abilities of the cyclist. It forces a sprint-specialized cyclist to focus on endurance while pushing the long-distance cyclists to be quick.

The format of Omnium is subject to change as the number of events differs. However, the general format includes six events i.e. flying lap, individual time trial, scratch race, points race, individual pursuit, and an elimination race. 

The former three events favor the sprinters, whilst the latter three are comfortable for those cyclists who prioritize endurance. 

Team Pursuit

By far, the most exciting event amongst the Olympic Cycling events. Two teams of fours cyclists (for men), and three cyclists (for women) take guard in the opposite ends of the circuit. 

Both the teams race for 4 kilometers and simply put, the quickest team to complete the distance wins. The final time is at the point where the third rider crosses the finish line. 

Here, the transition amongst the team, their distancing, and the ‘death pull’ in the end are as important as the speed of the cyclists. Adding to the thrill is the fact that if a team catches up to their opponents’ pace, they win. 

Team Sprint

Stating the obvious, this is an event where teams of two (women) or three (men) cyclists race against one another. The lead rider starts the campaign off with a lap, followed by the next two cyclists. 

The men’s event is of 3 laps while the women race for 2 laps. The factor that decides the winner is how seamless the transition happens. The lead rider peels off within a 15-meter window, paving way for the next rider to make their move. 

Again, this is an event that depends on pure explosive power and speed, making it a crowd’s favorite.

Individual Sprint 

Pure speed on display, the individual sprint is a two or four individual face-off in the velodrome. There have been instances where two opponents have faced off against one another to decide the final standings. 

Despite speed being the only requisite, there exists a lot of strategies, tricks, and tact in the race duration. Usually, three races are conducted with the racer with two wins out of three furthering their journey in the event. 

And this goes on until the final race where the last standings are decided.  

2. Road Cycling 

This event type is said to have taken birth in Germany in the early 18th century. This indulges racers in the true essence of cycling for commuting and other purposes on the road. 

A few rules and safety measures later, road cycling is now an event that grabs the headlines in the Olympic arena.

This cycling event is divided into two types:

Individual Time Trial

Racing against time is the crux of this event. There exists a predetermined course for racers to cycle which they have to complete. And the winner is the cyclist who completes the course in the quickest time. 

Since each cyclist rides alone, there is minimal opportunity for strategy or gameplan. It all boils down to being quick during the race. 

Individual Road Race 

This is one of the premier events in the Olympics itself with more than 100 competitors starting at the same time trying to outpace each other on paved roads. 

The distance for this event is 240 kilometers for men and 141 for women. Since the distance is longer than usual, this event requires a combination of speed and endurance, alongside a will of steel.

3. Mountain Bike — BMX

The only type of cycling event that is conducted off-road. The Mountain bike cycling style involves three major events. 

Cross country

During this event, cyclists face rough terrains and uncomfortable inclines and descents. An absolute viewer’s delight, cross country involves the cyclists riding in forest paths, rock gardens, and similar terrains. And this race usually goes for around 90 minutes.


One of the recently added events into the Olympics calendar, the BMX race is a single lap race in a special course. This includes obstacles, ramps, and steep corners, making the BMX race one of the highly anticipated events in the Olympics. 

This event requires finesse in skills and the rider’s thought process as it is dependent on reflex actions and handling, rather than speed and power.

Freestyle Park

Simply put, the BMX freestyle park is a stuntman’s playing ground. This event is making its debut at the 2020/21 Tokyo Olympics. The park involves several ramps and transitions that need to be used by riders to perform stunts. 

In Tokyo, 9 men and 9 women are gearing up to impress the judges and the audience with daredevil stunts and jaw-dropping tricks.


These are the events under the umbrella of Olympic Cycling. We at SpokeHerd love the diversity in the formats of cycling available to be enjoyed. 

We hope to see an intense and energy-filled Olympics. Also, we trust the performances in Tokyo to inspire the masses to take up cycling as a part of their lifestyle.

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