Rio de Janeiro 2016 | A History of Road Cycling in the Olympic Games
Everything you need to know about the history of the Olympic time trial and road race...
Looking for the history of road cycling in the Olympic Games? Well look no further. We’ve got everything you need to know about the history of road cycling at the Olympics broken down into an easily digestible article below.
What you should know first is that road cycling is one of the longest running games on the Olympic programme. In fact, alongside the likes of fencing and athletics, it’s one of the few sports that has been part of the Olympics since the very beginning, back in 1896.
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Men’s Road Race
Road cycling has been involved in 24 editions of the Games, only missing out in the very early days, in the Paris 1900, St. Louis 1904 and London Olympics 1908.
The men’s road race is the longest running event in the Games, being first introduced in that 1896 Athens edition, before taking a 32 year hiatus and returning to the program in 1928. It has been part of every single Olympic program since then, meaning it has now run for 23 editions in a row.
The men’s team road race was also once included on the Olympic program, and was competed six times from 1928 to 1956.
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Men’s Road Race – Medal Winners
European countries have typically done very well in the men’s road race, with only America (1984), Kazakhstan (2012) and the Soviet Union (1980) having won the gold medal from outside mainland Europe. Australia also had a silver medal in 1972, as did Canada in 1984 and Kazakhstan in 2000 in Sydney.
Italy and France are the most successful countries in the men’s road race, with Italy having won nine medals including five golds, France having won four medals including two golds, and Belgium and Germany also having enjoyed success.
Team GB has historically struggled in the road race, though can still boast four medals;
- Edwards Battell in Athens 1896
- Frank Southall in Amsterdam 1928
- Alan Jackson in Melbourne 1956
- Max Sciandri in Atlanta 1996
Mark Cavendish was a favourite for the race in 2012 with the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome on his side, but other teams conspired against the British to make it all too difficult, and in the end he couldn’t manage a podium or even a top 20 finish when the final breakaway arrived.
The last three winners of the men’s road race at the Olympic Games have been:
- Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) at London 2012
- Samuel Sanchez (Spain) at Beijing 2008
- Paolo Bettini (Italy) at Athens 2004
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Men’s Time Trial
The men’s individual and team time trial enjoyed brief spells of inclusion from Stockholm 1912 through Antwerp 1920 and Paris 1924 before being discontinued.
The team trial was then reintroduced from Rome 1960 and competed nine times, the last being in Barelona in 1992, before it was replaced by the individual time trial at the Atlanta 1996 Games. The individual time trial has now been competed for the last six Olympic Games including Rio.
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Men’s Time Trial – Medal Winners
Russia are the only country to ever win the Time Trial gold medal twice, a feat which Viatchesalv Ekimov achieved in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.
Sir Bradley Wiggins famously took the gold for Team GB at the home games in London in 2012, with Chris Froome taking a bronze medal for his efforts as well. Before 2012 the only other British medal in the individual time trial had been a bronze won by Chris Boardman at Atlanta 1996.
The last three winners of the men’s time trial at the Olympic Games have been:
- Sir Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) at London 2012
- Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) at Beijing 2008
- Viatcheslav Ekimov (Russia) at Athens 2004
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Women’s Road Race and Time Trial
Women’s road cycling was introduced to the Olympic Games at the Los Angeles 1984 Games, where the women’s road race was competed. It has been competed eight consecutive times so far, nine including the edition at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
The women’s individual time trial was introduced to the program the same year as the men’s; at the Atlanta 1996 Games. It has been included in six Olympic Games including Rio.
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Women’s Road Race – Medal Winners
The most successful nations since the road race was introduced to the women’s program at Los Angeles in 1984 have been Australia and Netherlands, with Australia winning two gold medals and Netherlands winning three gold medals and a bronze.
Team GB took their first ever medal in the women’s road race when Nicole Cooke won gold at Beijing in 2008, and Lizzie Armitstead followed this up with a silver medal on home turf at London 2012.
The past three winners of the women’s road race have been:
- Marianne Vos (Netherlands) at London 2012
- Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) at Beijing 2008
- Sara Carrigan (Australia) at Athens 2004
Road Cycling in the Olympics: Women’s Time Trial – Medal Winners
There have only been a total of five editions of the women’s time trial so far, which was introduced alongside the men’s back at Atlanta 1996.
Since Russia won that first gold, Netherlands have won twice, in 2000 and 2004, and the United States have shown their force, with wins in 2008, 2012 and silver medals in 2004 and 2000.
Team GB have medalled once in the women’s time trial, with Emma Pooley taking the silver medal in Beijing in 2008.
The past three winners of the women’s time trial have been:
- Kristin Armstrong (United States) at London 2012
- Kristin Armstrong (United States) at Beijing 2008
- Leontien van Moorsel (Netherlands) at Athens 2004