Olympic cycling
The Rio Olympic Velodrome has been subject to repeated delays Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Games History: Men's road and track cycling has been present at the Olympics since the first modern Games in Athens, Greece all the way back in 1896. Cross-country mountain biking made its debut at Atlanta 1996 and BMX racing was afforded the necessary status in 2003 before featuring in Beijing five years later. Women first competed in the road race at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 and saw further events added in both Seoul and Barcelona.

France are the most successful nation in the history of Olympic cycling, winning a total of 41 golds, 27 silvers and 22 bronzes. Next is Italy, while Great Britain have claimed 75 medals in total − 14 of which belong to lavishly decorated knights of the realm Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins. The Netherlands and the United States round off the current top five.


Road: The road race works as expected, with national squads of up to five riders competing for victory through a scenic course that is 256.4km long for men and 130.3km for women. The respective time trials take place at the Grumari Circuit in Pontal and will see riders released at 90 second intervals, with gold going to the cyclist who records the fastest time.

Track: This exciting portion of the programme is divided into 10 events, five for each gender. The individual sprints involve two riders going head-to-head in a frenzied dash for the line after an initial warm-up lap, while the team sprints are contested between teams of three starting on opposite sides of the track and racing over three laps (two for women), with the fastest over the final round being crowned the winner.

The team pursuit features teams of four that are trying to beat each other to the finish over 4km without being caught. See below for descriptions of the keirin and omnium events.

Mountain biking
The mountain biking test event was held in October 2015 Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Mountain biking: This involves separate mass start cross-country races featuring a set number of laps − to be decided at a later date − over a technically challenging 4.8km course made up of slopes, a rocky descent, a downhill wooden beam staircase and a daunting 1km climb. The main rule to be aware of here sees riders whose times are 80% slower than the leader leaving the race at the end of their current lap. Special zones are provided to exit the track.

BMX: Eight individual riders jump, glide and pedal simultaneously against each other in race heats, with four advancing through until the final. The start features a quick descent down an 8m ramp and the initial event contains a time trial to determine seeding for the next phase.

Number of Events: 18

Key terms:

Keirin - A sprint event of Japanese origin similar to the individual pursuit that made its debut at Sydney 2000. It involves riders pacing behind a motorised bike known as a derney, which steadily increases its speed before departing with two-and-a-half laps remaining. Competitors jostle for position behind before racing to a hectic sprint finish.

Omnium - A two-day, six-event extravaganza featuring a scratch race, individual pursuit, elimination race, time trial, flying lap against the clock and points race. The winner is the rider who has accumulated the most amount of points by the end.

Athlete to watch: Mark Cavendish (Great Britain). The Manx Missile recently won three of the first six stages of the 2016 Tour de France, moving clear of the legendary Bernard Hinault to stand just five short of Eddy Merckx's all-time record (34). Also a four-time world champion in the Madison and road race as well as a Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, Olympic success is the only major triumph to have thus far eluded one of the greatest British sportsmen of all time. He aims to finally put that right in Rio.

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish continues to hunt for that elusive Olympic success Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

"I'm finished, there's nothing for me on the track now," were his painful words after Beijing 2008, where he and partner Wiggins, focusing on the shorter pursuits, finished ninth in the Madison and Cavendish suffered the ignominy of being the only Team GB cyclisy not to medal. The fact that he had exited the Tour early to prepare despite fighting for the green jersey made it a substantially bitter pill to swallow.

His frustration continued at London 2012 with a 29th-place finish in the road race. The home favourites controlled proceedings for approximately 250km, but saw their best-laid plans thrown into turmoil with a 22-man breakaway near the finish. Cavendish made his first appearance for seven years at the Track World Championships at Lee Valley VeloPark in March, reuniting with Wiggins and bouncing back from an early crash to reclaim Madison gold in dramatic fashion.

His controversial Olympic hopes looked to be in serious jeopardy with a disappointing sixth-place finish in the omnium, but confirmation came last month that he will indeed contest the event in Brazil. He is also part of the team pursuit squad alongside Wiggins, Owain Doull, Ed Clancy and Steven Burke.


The picturesque Fort Copacabana and Pontal provide the start and finishing lines for the road race and time trials. The track programme will take place at the Rio Olympic Velodrome, which was finally tested and officially handed over to Olympic organisers late last month after initial concerns that it would not be ready in time.

Rio Olympic Velodrome
Delayed work on the Rio Olympic Velodrome left Olympic organisers sweating Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Persistent delays due to "logistical problems concerning the installation of the track" led to a scheduled April test event being called off before the Rio city government later cancelled its contract with the original construction company after the latter filed for bankruptcy. The 5,400m long Mountain Bike Centre is located at Radical Park in Deodoro, which also houses the the Olympic BMX Centre.



Saturday 6 August: Men's road race

Sunday 7 August: Women's road race

Wednesday 10 August: Men's and women's time trials


Thursday 11 August: Men's team sprint qualifying, women's team pursuit qualifying, men's team sprint first round, men's team pursuit qualifying, men's team sprint finals

Friday 12 August: Women's team sprint qualifying, men's sprint qualifying, men's team pursuit first round, women's team sprint first round, men's sprint, women's team sprint finals, men's sprint last 16 final repechages, men's team pursuit finals

Saturday 13 August: Women's keirin first round, men's sprint quarter-finals, women's keirin first round repechages, men's sprint final repechages, women's team pursuit first round, men's sprint quarter-finals, men's sprint race for 9th-12th places, women's keirin second round, men's sprint quarter-finals, women's team pursuit finals, men's sprint quarter-finals, women's keirin finals, men's sprint semi-finals, men's sprint race for 5th-8th places

Sunday 14 August: Women's sprint qualifying, men's omnium scratch race, men's sprint finals, women's sprint last 16, men's omnium 4km individual pursuit, women's sprint last 16 final repechages, men's omnium elimination race

Monday 15 August: Women's sprint quarter-finals, men's omnium kilometre time trial, women's sprint quarter-final final repechages, women's omnium 10km scratch race, men's omnium flying lap, women's sprint race for 9th-12th places, women's omnium 3km individual pursuit, men's omnium 40km points race, women's omnium elimination race

Tuesday 16 August: Women's sprint quarter-finals, Men's keirin first round, women's omnium 500m time trial, men's keirin first round repechages, women's sprint race for 5th-8th places, women's sprint semi-finals, women's omnium flying lap, men's keirin second round, women's omnium 25km points race, women's sprint finals, men's keirin finals

Mountain biking:

Saturday 20 August: Women's cross country

Sunday 21 August: Men's cross country


Wednesday 17 August: Women's and men's seeding run

Thursday 18 August: Men's quarter-finals

Friday 19 August: Women's and men's semi-finals and finals