The road cycling races can be one of the highlights of the Olympic Games, and that’ll be no different at the Rio Olympics this summer.
Road cycling was introduced to the Olympics as part of the original program, back when the first modern Games was held in Athens in 1896. It hasn’t been in every Olympics since then, but it has featured heavily.
The two modern disciplines competed in road cycling at the Olympics Games are the individual road race and the individual time trial. While the team road race and team time trial featured often in the past, neither have been part of the program since 1992.
At London 2012, Kazakhstan competitor Alexander Vinokourov won the gold in the road race, with Sir Bradley Wiggins winning the time trial. In the women’s category, Marianne Vos took home the gold for Netherlands ahead of Lizzie Armitstead in the road race, while America’s Kristin Armstrong took the top spot in the time trial for the second consecutive Games.
Let’s take a look through some of the basics for road cycling at the Olympics – so you can be a 30 second expert before you sit down to support Team GB this year.
Rio 2016 Olympic Road Cycling: The Events and Rules
There are just the two road cycling events at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, as previously mentioned; the road race and the time trial. Both these disciplines are competed in by both men and women.
The men’s road race has been competed at 24 Olympic Games since 1896, and the time trial nine times. The women’s road race has been ever present since 1984, and the women’s time trial was introduced alongside the men’s back in 1996.
In the road race, riders complete a 256.4km set road course in the fastest time possible – 130.3km for women – competing alongside other riders who all set off at the same time. The first rider to cross the finish line wins the gold medal.
In the time trial, the riders race against the clock, leaving the starting ramp individually at intervals of 90 seconds. The course is 29.8km, with women riding it once and men twice, and the rider with the fastest time once everyone has finished receives the gold.
For more on the rules of Olympic road cycling events, the time trial and road race, read here.
Who is Representing Team GB in Road Cycling at the Olympics?
For the road cycling road race at the Olympics, Team GB will have five riders for the men’s events and three riders for the women’s event.
For the time trial, Team GB will have the one rider for the men’s category and one for the women’s. Whoever is selected for the time trial will usually always also compete in the road race.
Chris Froome and Lizzie Armitstead will be strong medal hopes for Team GB. Emma Pooley, who won silver in the 2008 time trial, will also be a strong contender for a Team GB slot.
As Froome’s main focus this year is defending his Tour de France title, with the Tour running right up until July 24, rather than the Olympics, there’s also a possibly that Froome will play more of a supporting role in the road race.
In this case, Geraint Thomas may play the role of the key man, while the likes of Pete Kennaugh, Adam Yates and Ian Stannard make up the rest of the team. It’s likely those selected will have been for their climbing ethos and ability to support Froome.
In the women's race, world road champion Lizzie Armitstead leads the women’s squad with Beijing 2008 time trial silver medallist Emma Pooley and first-time Olympian Nikki Harris.
For a more detailed look at who will be representing Team GB at the Olympics in road cycling, read here.
Rio 2016 Olympic Road Cycling: The Race Course
The road race routes will start at the famous Copacabana in Rio, opening with a 1.2km climb up a seven percent gradient before featuring an array of tough climbs, cobbles and flats before the finish back at Copacabana.
Like the road race, the time trial course definitely favours climbers. An opening climb takes riders to the circuit, where they will take on 50km before returning for a closing section almost identical to what they opened on.
For a more in depth look at the course for the Olympic time trial and road race, maps, and the differences between the men’s and women’s events, read here.
When is the Road Cycling Race on at the Rio 2016 Olympics? And Where can I Watch It?
The BBC are screening all Olympic events live, whether on television, red button or online. The men’s road race is on Saturday 6 August, the women’s follows on Sunday 7 August, and both the men’s and women’s time trials will be held on Wednesday 10 August.
For more on the road cycling schedule at the Olympic Games, read here.