As far as the Olympics are concerned, there are four different flavours of cycling which take place in four very different arenas. We are going to cover them in two parts, with the first dedicated to the two more recently added disciplines, BMX and Mountain Biking.
The new kid on the block as far as the Olympic programme is concerned — having only made its debut four years ago — Bicycle Motocross (as absolutely no-one calls it) will take place on a short and undulating purpose built track to the side of the Velodrome over three days. Starting at the top of an eight metre high ramp, this is speedy stuff with riders clocking over 60kmph and points and races finishing in well under a minute.
The format is the same for both Men and Women although there are twice as many competitors in the former. First riders have a solo run of the track to be given seedings for the main races, which then sees them split up into separate Quarters and then Semis where they race each other over multiple runs. Points are accumulated based on position in the races, with the best placed riders advancing to the Final. This takes place as one race with first across the line grabbing the coveted gold.
Britain are fairly well placed here with Shanaze Reade a multiple world champion. She won on this course during last year’s test event, so fingers crossed for a repeat.
To give it a go yourself there are a few BMX clubs in London, so use British Cycling’s Club Finder to find the closest to you.
Mountain BikingThere will be an excursion out into the Essex countryside to Hadleigh Farm for the Mountain Bikers, where a purpose built 4.7km course has been built on hilly countryside. The course is key to this event, featuring a number of climbs, rocky sections, switchback turns and even a little tunnel. Grab the gold by being first to cross the finish line after a set number of laps with races lasting a little over 90 minutes.
One of the more publicised quirks of mountain bike racing is that the riders carry some basic tools with them to carry out repairs to their bikes if needed. Outside assistance is only available in very specific repair zones, so it can be quite difficult to predict a winner as a mechanical issue can have a massive effect.
Crashes are not uncommon, with Team GB’s Liam Killeen doing just that last time out, before climbing back on to finish the race in the top 10.
The lack of suitable terrain inside the capital, means that if you want to give this a go yourself, a trip outside the M25 might be in order, where there suitable places like the Hampshire Downs, Chilterns and the South Downs are just a short drive away. One closer to home option though is Epping Forest. See London Cyclist for more information.
By John Wilkes
Get the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports before the Opening Ceremony.