Cycling guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

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

Photograph: Cycling via Shutterstock

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

Confused: No one cared about this sport until Lance Armstrong showed up. The most shameless bandwagon jumping until Charlie Sheen joined Twitter.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Cycling - The essential guide

Street cred: An eruption in urban biking has made cycling's popularity rise almost as fast as gas prices.

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

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

Track – this is where they go around and around and around 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.

Road – the 'Tour de London' road race lasts around 260km (130km for the women) and takes in large swaths 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 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 a teenager who likes cycling so much he attempts to become Italian. We've made it sound weirder than it is.