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Welcome to Cycling Weekly’s comprehensive guide to every cycling discipline at this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, China (August 8-24).

Below you will find a description of each event, a list of current world and Olympic champions in that discipline, the British participants and our pick of who will win.


Click on a cycling discipline to scroll down

Individual pursuit (men)

Individual pursuit (women)

Team pursuit (men)

Sprint (men)

Sprint (women)

Team sprint (men)

Points race (men)

Points race (women)

Keirin (men)

Madison (men)

Road race (men)

Road race (women)

Time trial (men)

Time trial (women)

BMX (men)

BMX (women)

Cross-country (men)

Cross-country (women)

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The individual pursuit sees the riders timed over a distance of 4km. Much like a time-trial, each rider completes the distance alone in the first qualifying round. The fastest eight riders are then pitted against each other, (first against eighth, second against seventh etc.) starting at opposite sides of the track. If one rider catches the other, then he or she is automatically declared the winner; if not, the winner is the one with the fastest time on the line.

The four winners then take part in the gold medal and bronze medal finals with the fastest two winners going for gold and the slowest two for bronze.

Why do the riders start at opposite sides of the track?

It?s all in the name. The pursuit is two riders chasing each other around the track. It makes it interesting for spectators, and gives the riders a yardstick as they will be given instructions on whether or not they are leading.

2004 Olympic champion: Bradley Wiggins (GBR)

2008 World Champion: Bradley Wiggins (GBR)

British riders:

Bradley Wiggins plus either Geraint Thomas or Mark Cavendish

World Record – 4:11.114mins, Chris Boardman (1996) (set using now banned ?superman? position)

CW Favourites:

Triple world champ Wiggins is the clear favourite, but Dutchman Jenning Huizenga is a threat after his performance at this year?s world champs.

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The women?s pursuit is very similar to the men?s event, but the women are timed over 3km. 2008 World Champion Rebecca Romero will be competing in the individual pursuit and will aim to become one of the few people to have won Olympic medals in two different disciplines, having won silver in the rowing sculls in the 2004 Athens Games.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: Sarah Ulmer (New Zealand)

2008 World Champion: Rebecca Romero (GBR)

British riders:

Wendy Houvenaghel, Rebecca Romero

World Record – 3:24.537mins, Sarah Ulmer (2004)

CW Favourites:

Rebecca Romero will start as the favourite although she has never ridden three rounds in competition, as she will in Beijing. Look out for other Brit Wendy Houvenaghel and American Sarah Hammer. Australia?s Katie Mactier is another medal contender

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This is essentially the same as the individual pursuit, but with teams of four riders instead of just individuals, each sharing the work on the front. The team?s time is taken when the third rider crosses the line. The women?s team pursuit made its first appearance at this year?s Track Worlds, although will not feature in this year?s Olympics.

2004 Men?s Olympic Champions: Australia

2008 World champions: Great Britain

World Record – 3:56.322mins – Great Britain

British riders:

Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins

CW Favourites:

Another event that the Brits will go in to as favourites although the Danes pushed them all the way at the Worlds. It?s impossible to rule out the Aussies and look out for the Kiwis too.

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The sprint will be one of the most exciting events to watch in Beijing. Riders first set a qualifying time over 200 metres with the fastest 24 going in to the one-on-one matches. These take place three laps of the track with first man over the line winning. In the later rounds it?s a best of three format, and don?t forget the reperchages where beaten riders get the chance to get back in to the competition.

Tactical nous is as important as raw power in the sprint event, as riders try to manoeuvre their rivals into position before going shoulder to shoulder at 70kph.

Why do sprint riders start so slowly?

The sprint is all about tactics and manoeuvring your opponent into position before the line. Some like to lead the sprint whilst others like to sit behind and use their opponents? slipstream. The rider on the front will go slowly at first as he will want to keep an eye on his opponent, meaning looking behind him, so he knows when to react.

2004 Men?s Olympic champion: Ryan Bayley (Aus)

2008 Men?s World champion: Chris Hoy (GBR)

World record – 9.772secs, Theo Bos (NED) (WR is for qualifying)

British riders:

Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny

CW Favourites:

Chris Hoy will start as the favourite after winning the world title in March, but if Theo Bos can get back to his best he?ll be hard to beat. Also look out for Kevin Sireau and Mickaël Bourgain of France.

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The women?s sprint is exactly the same as the men?s event, riding the same number of rounds and covering the same distances. Unfortunately for the female sprinters, this is their only chance of gold after the 500m time trial was dropped after Athens and the Keirin has never been an Olympic event for the women.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: Lori-Ann Muenzer (Can)

2008 Women?s World champion: Victoria Pendleton (GBR)

World record – 10.831secs, Olga Slioussareva (RUS)

British riders:

Victoria Pendleton

CW Favourites:

Winning three World sprint titles in the last four years puts Victoria Pendleton at the top of the tree, especially due to the dominant manner in which she has won them. Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus could be a threat if she has recovered from her broken collarbone sustained at the Worlds, as will Simona Krupeckaite and China?s Shung Guo.

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The team sprint sees teams of three riders competing over three laps of the track. The first rider will lead the team from the start gate, before peeling off after one lap. The second rider then takes to the front for the next lap, with the last rider finishing off the third. The fastest team over three laps is then declared the winner. Rules permit one false start, but the teams must get away cleanly on the second attempt. There will be three rounds as per the pursuits. This event is often won in hundredths if not thousandths of a second.

Why is there no world Record?

There is no World Record for the team sprint because it is not over a set distance. Cycling tracks differ in length (although they have been standardised recently to 250m for major competitions), so team sprints have been run over different distances. There is a world?s best time however (see below).

2004 Men?s Olympic champions: Germany

2008 Men?s World champions: France

World?s best time- 43.271secs, France

British riders:

Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Jamie Staff

CW Favourites:

This really is the French?s event. They have won the world title nine times in the 14 years since its inception and were Olympic champions in Sydney. The British trio are also strong as are the Dutch and the Germans.

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The points race is an endurance event often ridden by riders who compete on the road for the rest of the season. Tactical savvy is as important as raw speed as riders must pay constant attention to any attacks during the race. The race will take place over a distance of 40 kilometres. Intermediate sprints take place every ten laps, with points available for the first five riders across the line. If a rider manages to gain a lap on the field, twenty bonus points are awarded. The winner is simply the rider with the most points at the end of the race, so the final dash to the line is often irrelevant.

2004 Men?s Olympic champion: Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus)

2008 Men?s World champion: Vasili Kiriyenka (Blr)

British rider:

Chris Newton

CW Favourites:

Since the 2004 Olympics, Mikhail Ignatiev has forged a strong career on the road and it remains to be seen whether he will have retained his powerful sprint. Chris Newton and Cameron Myer can never be discounted.

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The women?s points race is much the same as the men?s event, although we be run over a shorter distance (likely to be 25km). Watch out for Briton, Rebecca Romero, who is making her cycling debut at Olympic level, after converting from rowing.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: Olga Slyusareva (Rus)

2008 Women?s World champion: Marianne Vos (Ned)

British rider:

Rebecca Romero

CW Favourites:

Marianne Vos is unstoppable at the moment and looks set to win her first Olympic medal at this year?s Games.

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The keirin is perhaps the most unusual of the track disciplines, requiring as it does the use of a Derny motorbike to pace the seven riders around the track. The keirin was first established in Japan in 1948. The Derny rider leads the riders for the first 1,400 metres increasing the speed from 30km/h to 50km/h, before peeling off to leave the riders to a final sprint. No one is allowed to overtake the Derny whilst it is pacing the riders, although this does not stop the riders jostling for position behind it. Watch out for Japanese riders to shine; the keirin is almost a national sport in itself in Japan, with several ?keirin schools? across the country. Despite being a World Championship discipline for women, Victoria Pendleton et al will not get the chance to ride the keirin in Beijing, as it?s not yet a women?s Olympic discipline.

Why is there a Derny?

The Derny?s origins with the keirin event stretch back a long way and it?s unsure when it first originated. Its purpose is to pace the riders over the first few laps as it gradually ups the pace in preparation for the final sprint.

2004 men?s Olympic champion: Ryan Bayley (Aus)

2008 men?s World champion: Chris Hoy (GBR)

British riders:

Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy

CW Favourites:

As double world champion Chris Hoy has to start as favourite, but look out for his French nemesis Arnaud Tournant. 2004 Olympic champion Ryan Bayley cannot be overlooked, neither can Theo Bos of the Netherlands.

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Named after Madison Square Garden, where the event first gained popular recognition, it is perhaps the most complex of track disciplines for spectators to follow. The event dates back to the late nineteenth century, and was conceived as a means of waiving the laws governing cycle racing, which dictated that riders could ride for no longer than twelve hours per day. The Madison is an endurance race, with teams of two riders competing. The team covering the most laps is declared the winner, with points accumulated only relevant in differentiating between teams on the same number of laps. Intermediate sprints are held every 20 laps with points available for the first four across the line. Only one team member is technically ?in the race? at any one time, with the other team member riding around at the top of the banking. The riders must touch to change over, yet this is usually done by means of a hand-sling, propelling the other rider back into the race.

Why do the riders switch over?

Riders switch over to allow a team-mate to rest for a few laps or to put the other rider back into the race if he is a better sprinter if there is an intermediate sprint coming up.

2004 Men?s Olympic champions: Australia

2008 Men?s World champion: Great Britain

British riders:

Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins

CW Favourites:

Great Britain; Australia; Switzerland; Spain

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The Olympic Road course will certainly be a challenging one. It features an undulating 248.5km course around the Great Wall near Beijing. Starting in Tiananmen Square, the riders will not only be faced with a tough parcours, but stifling humidity will see riders being dropped from the start. There will be 145 competitors in the men?s event, battling it out over the demanding 11km climb that they will tackle seven times. The riders then descend from the climb and tackle it again, allowing them little or no time to recover. The road race used to be amateurs-only, but professionals have been allowed to compete since 1996. The backdrop to the race will be spectacular, with the race finishing under the Great Wall.

Who?s going to win?

Unclear at the moment. The course is very demanding and the winner will certainly be a deserving one. 2004 Olympic champion Paolo Bettini is one of the main favourites. The heat, humidity and the length of the main climb will all be factors in the final selection.

2004 Men?s Olympic champion: Paolo Bettini (Ita)

2007 Men?s World champion: Paolo Bettini (Ita)

British riders:

Jonny Bellis; Steve Cummings; Roger Hammond: Ben Swift

CW Favourites:

Paolo Bettini is one of the greatest one-day riders in the sport and is very hard to beat on his day. Alberto Contador comes off the back of a Giro d?Italia win and will fare well on the 11km climb. Luxembourgois rider Fränk Schleck had a strong Tour de France finishing 6th and can is also a strong one-day rider.

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With only 67 riders, the women?s field is somewhat smaller than the men?s. The rules governing the women?s race are the same as those governing the men, with the exception that the women will compete over a shorter distance. Britain will be sending a strong team, with eight-time British champion Nicole Cooke being one of the race?s main favourites. However, with only three riders per team, it will be make it difficult for any one team to control the race. Defending World champion, Marta Bastianelli, is unlikely to start after testing positive for an illicit dieting product in an out of competition test.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: Sara Carrigan (Aus)

2007 Women?s World champion: Marta Bastianelli (Ita)

British riders:

Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley, Sharon Laws

CW Favourites:

The World Championships have to date eluded the grasps of Nicole Cooke, although she is a key favourite to take the Olympic crown this year. Marianne Vos and Judith Arndt are both ex-World Champions with proven results on tough courses.

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The Olympic time trial will be one of the highlights of the cycling events at the Olympics. With professional cycling?s elite time-triallists taking part, competition for medals will be fierce. The men will be timed over two laps of a challenging 23.5km circuit (which is the same course tackled in the road race), each with an 11km climb. As with the road race, the riders have to compete with the temperature and humidity as well as the undulating course. 2004 Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton will not be riding because he tested positive for blood doping after the event, but because of a technicality, has not yet had his title stripped.

Why the funny bikes and helmets?

Aerodynamics. A rider?s greatest enemy is the wind; in essence, the more ?slippery? a rider can make himself, the faster he will go.

2004 Men?s Olympic champion: Tyler Hamilton (USA)

2007 Men?s World champion: Fabian Cancellara (Swi)

British rider:

Steve Cummings

CW Favourites:

Fabian Cancellara is perhaps the world?s greatest time-triallist at the moment and will be difficult to beat. Jose Ivan Gutierrez is a strong time-triallist on his day and Stefan Schumacher recently won both time-trials in the Tour de France so cannot be discounted. Steve Cummings can put in a good time trial and stands an outside chance of a medal.

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The women?s time trial is exactly the same as the men?s event; the one exception being that the women will ride only one lap of the 23.5km circuit. 2007 World time trial champion Kristin Armstrong will be one of the main favourites for the event, although will face some stiff competition from the likes of Edita Pucinskaite and Hanker Kupfernagel. The backdrop to the event will be spectacular, with landmarks such as the Temple of Heaven, the Great Hall of the People and the Yonghegong Lama Temple.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: Leontien van Moorsel (Ned)

2007 Women?s World champion: Hanker Kupfernagel (Ger)

British riders:


CW Favourites:

The event lacks any clear favourites but be sure to watch out for Kristin Armstrong and Edita Pucinskaite. Hanker Kupfernagel is the defending World champion and will certainly put up a fight.

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BMX racing took off in the late 1960s/early 1970s in California. Riders start from steep ramps and compete over courses including jumps, bumps and steps. It was agreed only in 2003 that BMX would become an Olympic sport in 2008, so this year will see the BMX make its first Olympic appearance. The Laoshan track in Beijing is 370 metres long and features an almost vertical eight-metre-high start ramp.

2004 Men?s Olympic champion: N/A

2008 Men?s World champion: Maris Strombergs (Lat)

British riders:

Liam Phillips

CW Favourites:

Maris Strombergs (Lat) is the clear favourite for the event, although do not discount 18-year old Liam Phillips? chances of a medal.

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The women?s event is very similar to the men?s, with the exception being that the women compete over a distance of 350 metres, instead of 370. Look for British star Shanaze Reade to excel. Shanaze is unique in combining BMX riding with track riding, although will not be riding the track in this year?s Games.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: N/A

2008 Women?s World champion: Shanaze Reade (GBR)

British riders:

Shanaze Reade

CW Favourites:

Shanaze Reade is Britain?s Olympic hopeful with BMX making its inaugural appearance at the Games. She is a key favourite.

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Located near the Laoshan Velodrome in the West of Beijing, the 4.6km mountain biking course is undulating and technical. Based on the Laoshan Mountain, the altitude varies from 75m to 127m, which does not sound particularly arduous, but may be enough to see decisive selections made in the race as legs begin to tire. Mountain biking has only been an Olympic event as of 1996, but the UCI asked the organisers this year to shorten the course and increase its difficulty. As with the road race, competitors will also have to compete with strong humidity levels.

2004 Men?s Olympic champion: Julien Absalon (Fra)

2008 Men?s World champion: Christoph Sauser (Sui)

British riders:

Oli Beckingsale, Liam Killeen

CW Favourites:

Julien Absalon is the defending Olympic champion and will be difficult to overhaul. Christoph Sauser is likely to be Absalon?s main challenger.

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As with many of the women?s events, the race is very similar to the men?s event, with the only exception being a shorter race distance. Based on the same course, the women?s event will be just as competitive with Gunn-Rita Dahle the Cycling Weekly favourite.

2004 Women?s Olympic champion: Gunn-Rita Dahle (Nor)

2008 Women?s World champion: Marie-Helene Premont (Can)

British riders:


CW Favourites:

The women?s mountain biking event has no outstanding favourite although look out for Gunn-Rita Dahle, Marie-Helene Premont, and Margarita Fullana.

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CW’s Dummies’ Guide to Track Racing


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