Cycling in one form or another has been contested at every modern Olympic Games since the first in 1896, when a road race and five track events were held. Women made their Olympic cycling debut on the road at Los Angeles in 1984 and they started competing on the track in 1988.
Road races include a group race and individual time trials. Mountain bike racing was added for the 1996 Atlanta Games, followed by BMX racing at the 2008 Beijing Games. For 2020, BMX freestyle has been added to the program.
BMX (freestyle and racing)
Freestyle BMX features cyclists performing tricks and stunts on a variety of obstacles walls, box jumps and spines. Competitors will each have two 60-second runs and will be scored on the originality, difficulty, height, creativity and execution of their moves.
BMX freestyle will take place on July 31 and Aug. 1.
BMX racing was included in the 2008 Beijing Games and has been part of the Olympic program since then. BMX races see six to eight cyclists racing for about 400 meters after a gated start. The races feature heavy contact between riders as they scramble to gain good position. The course itself features bumps and jumps, as well as banked turns.
BMX racing will take place on July 29 and 30.
Venue and access information
BMX events will be held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park, which has a capacity of 6,600 for BMX freestyle and 5,000 for BMX racing. It is about 10 minutes from Ariake-tennis-no-mori Station on the Yurikamome Line and eight minutes from Kokusai-tenjijo Station on the Rinkai Line.
At these games, mountain bike racers will compete on a 4,100-meter track that features pitched climbs and descents over rough terrain. Following the mass start, racers will compete for a set number of laps with the first to complete them winning the race. Riders can be eliminated if they fall too far off the pace of the leader. Races typically take around 1½ hours to complete.
Mountain bike racing will take place on July 26 and 27
Venue and access information
Mountain bike racing will take place on the MTB Course, which has a capacity of 11,500. There are shuttle buses from Ito Station on the Ito Line and Shuzenji Station on the Izu Hakone Line.
Both men and women will compete in this challenging discipline, covering more than 250 and 130 kilometers, respectively. Riders will start at nearly sea level in Musashinonomori Park in Tokyo, but men will see elevations climb to passes over 1,400 meters and women will see climbs that reach over 1,100 meters. Athletes will ride from Tokyo through Kanagawa Prefecture before finishing at Fuji International Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture.
For the time trials, riders start out at intervals and are competing against the clock, with the men covering about 50 kilometers and women covering around 30 kilometers.
Road races will take place on July 25, 26 and 28.
Track races are contested indoors typically on wooden tracks, with the Tokyo 2020 track measuring 250 meters. Unlike road bikes, track bikes have no brakes as braking at the high speeds the riders achieve could cause crashes.
Cycling at the Olympics includes both individual and team sprints. Qualifying for both is done through a time trial to seed riders into knockout stages with the best two competing for gold and silver while the third and fourth fastest vie for bronze.
Individual races pit two riders starting beside each other. With riders waiting for an opportunity to outsprint the other to the finish, tactics are an important aspect as being in front is considered a disadvantage, and racers will sometimes come to a complete stop while trying to get the other right in front and find just the right opportunity to make their move. The first rider to cross the finish line after three laps is the winner.
Men’s team sprints see teams of three compete over three laps. The teams start on opposite sides of the track and work to quickly gain speed and achieve an aerodynamic formation. The lead rider from each team peels off after the first lap and the second rider quits after the second. This leaves the third rider — who needs the combination of speed and endurance — to finish the lap, with the winner being the fastest across the line. Women’s races are in the same format, but with two riders per team competing for two laps.
In team pursuit, both men and women have four riders per team competing in a 4-kilometer endurance race. Teams start on opposite sides of the track and riders take turns leading their teams, allowing their fellow riders to “rest” as they draft in the slipstream of the leader. The finishing time is marked when the third rider crosses the line and teams may have a rider take a longer turn up front as the race nears the end, with that rider peeling off and falling behind.
Created in Japan, keirin sees riders jockey for position as they follow a pacesetting motorcycle. The motorcycle gradually increases its speed to 50 kph and leaves the track with three laps remaining as the riders sprint to the finish line.
The omnium has changed significantly over the past two Olympics and has been updated for 2020. The omnium consists of four events taking place over a single day.
The first is a scratch race that is a mass start race with men riding for 15 kilometers and women for 10. The scratch race is basically a straightforward first-to-the-finish affair, although stronger endurance riders and sprinters will engage in various tactics to gain an advantage.
New for 2020 is the 7½-kilometer tempo race. With the exception of the first five laps, sprints occur every lap with the first rider to cross the finish line first awarded one point. Riders can also gain four points for lapping the main field, and any rider caught by the main group must leave the track, losing any points they have accrued in that event.
The third event is an elimination race that sees the last rider across the line every two laps eliminated until only one rider remains.
The final event is a points race that sees the men race for 25 km and the women for 20. Riders are awarded points for winning sprints along the way and lapping the field.
Track cycling events are high-speed, high-tempo races and can be quite exciting to watch.
The madison sees two riders compete in a relay over 50 km for men and 30 km for women. One rider rests by pedaling slowly while the other races. When they are ready for a change, the rider coming onto the track must be touched by the rider heading off to rest. This is sometimes a push from behind to give them momentum, but is often a hand-sling where the rider leaving the track flings the replacement into the race. There are sprints every 10 laps with the first rider to cross the line receiving five points, the second rider three, the third rider two and the fourth rider one point. If a rider is able to lap the main field, they are awarded 20 points, while a lapped rider has 20 points deducted.
The various disciplines take place from Aug. 2 to 9.
Venue and access information
Track cycling events will be held at the 3,600-seat Izu Velodrome. The velodrome can be accessed by shuttle buses from Ito Station on the JR Ito Line.