Cycling guide - London 2012 Olympics

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Your complete guide to cycling ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Converted: Five hundred of the world’s top cyclists are coming to the capital for a primetime pedalling frenzy... who’s going to break it to the black-cab drivers?

Confused: No one cared about this sport until we won a few medals. The most shameless bandwagon jumping since William Hague joined Twitter.

Cycling - The essential guide

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Street cred: An eruption in city riding, combined with Britain’s Olympic success, has made cycling's popularity rise almost as fast as petrol prices.

Who’s good? Britain is expected to lead the way although France and Australia will also fancy a few podium finishes.

Glory-hunting potential: The all-conquering riders who won eight golds in Beijing will be back for more at London 2012. Mark Cavendish is a leading road contender, Shanaze Reade is one of the stars of BMX and Team GB is set to dominate the track again. In the Paralympics, Sarah Storey is targeting titles on track and road.

The basics: Olympic cycling is divided into four separate disciplines:

Track – this is where they go round and round and round the velodrome. It features the team and individual sprint, the keirin, the team pursuit and new Olympic event the omnium, which comprises six events and is like a cycling version of a decathlon (Daley Thompson not included). 

Road – the ‘Tour de London’ road race lasts around 260km (130km for the women) and takes in large swathes of the capital and Surrey. The shorter time trials, in which riders start 30 seconds apart, begin and end at Hampton Court.


BMX – a crash, bang, wallop affair where fearless riders hurtle down an 8m-high ramp and then through a tight, twisting circuit. Bunny hops can be incorporated.


Mountain Bike – an all-action, cross-country challenge featuring hills, thrills and frequent spills in the Essex countryside. There are two races – one apiece for ladies and gents – lasting around an hour and 45 minutes each. 


Athlete to watch: Sir Chris Hoy needs two more gold medals to become Britain’s most successful Olympian ever. He says he expects to win three, the big show-off.

Almost useless fact: The velodrome has been dubbed ‘The Pringle’ because it is shaped like one.

As seen in: ‘Breaking Away’ (1979), an inspiring tale of an American teenager who likes cycling so much he attempts to become Italian. We’ve made it sound weirder than it is.

British Olympic Hopefuls

© britishcycling.org.uk

What sacrifices have you had to make? Do you regret any?

I chose to move out of Wales to Italy at an early age to concentrate on my sport, meaning I had to sacrifice a lot in terms of seeing friends and family. I don’t regret anything, though.

If the monarchy suddenly disbanded, which song would you want played at your gold-medal ceremony instead of the national anthem?

It would have to be ‘Bread of Heaven' [Cwm Rhondda] or something Welsh.

Who’s your Olympics crush?

My gold medal.

Many people start out in a sport, and then give up. What made you persist?

I still have a fire burning inside me to get back to the top after a couple of difficult years – you need to keep this alight as long as you can. Use others as your inspiration and bring them together to write your own story.

What does your diet consist of, and how does it change when you're training?

It's very high in carbohydrates and, during rides, I eat energy gels and bars and drink plenty of liquids.

What will be unique about a London Olympics?

The 2012 Games will see an amazing array of cultures coming together through sport. It will be so inspiring to be a part of.

What is the most common misconception about your sport?

That drug use in road cycling is widespread when only a tiny number of riders have made this stupid mistake. Having been in the sport for many years, I've seen the commitment and dedication of every rider – we all know that cheating is not an option.

You can follow Nicole Cooke on Twitter @NicoleCooke2012

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