A few days ago we looked at BMX and Mountain Biking, how here’s the lowdown on Track and Road cycling, with a reminder you can watch road races this weekend for free.
Track: With a nomination for the 2011 Stirling Prize and a bid for the 2016 World Championship on the table; the Velodrome hosts the track cycling on its 250m track where the ends are banked up to a massive 42 degrees.
There are five different races: Individual Sprint, Team Sprint, Keirin, Team Pursuit and, new for 2012, the multi-disciplined Omnium. This is quite a change from Beijing as a few events like the Madison and Scratch race have been dropped so that there are now the same events for men and women.
Another change is that each nation can only submit one entry for each event, meaning it is actually impossible for Team GB to recreate the bumper medal haul of four years ago.
A number of riders like Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy are already household names and need no introduction. Hoy will defend two of his three titles here, with Pendleton able to go for three for the very first time thanks to addition of Women’s Keirin. One you might not know but should certainly watch is Team Pursuit and Omnium rider and, most importantly, London-raised Laura Trott. She is world champion in both her events and was part of the pursuit team which has broken the world record three times in 2012 alone.
For the Paralympics, much is the same with Sprints, Pursuits and Time Trials; which will be ridden by riders with adapted bikes or in the case or visual impediments, take place on a tandem with a sighted pilot at the front.
If you fancy giving track cycling a go then you should head for Herne Hill velodrome – itself a former Olympic venue from the 1948 games – which holds weekly Introduction sessions. Be warned though: unlike in Stratford, the Herne Hill velodrome is outdoors, so sessions are at the mercy of the weather.
Road: On the road there are two different disciplines: the Road Race and the Time Trial.
First one up is the Road Race –- taking place this coming weekend (men on Saturday from 10am, women on Sunday from noon) –- with all the riders rolling out into Surrey for laps around Box Hill before heading back to the Mall for the finish. The majority of the route will be unticketed with a few good guides knocking about the internet for where to watch.
Team GB have five riders in the men’s race and four in the women’s race with a strong team in both. Four of the five riders on the Men’s team won stages in the recent Tour de France, including Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome who were first and second overall. This should bode well to launching Manx Missile/World Champion Mark Cavendish to victory. As for the Women’s team, three of them were here four years ago with Nicole Cooke the first British Gold of the Beijing Games — but there has been a little switcheroo since then with Cooke likely to be taking on a helping role here, with the medal hope this time being Lizzie Armitstead.
In the Time Trial riders go individually against the clock on a route centred on Hampton Court. Fastest time wins – simple as that. Bradley Wiggins won both of the long time trials in this year’s Tour so it is set for another stand-off between him, current Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara and current world champion Tony Martin.
The Paralympic cycling events take place at Brands Hatch and have the same format of Road Race and Time Trials. The bikes have changed in a few cases, because as well as the regular bikes and tandems that are used on the track there are tricycles and handcycles. There are a massive 32 medals on offer here.
Taking up cycling in London couldn’t be simpler; buy bike, get on bike, ride. TfL do a pretty decent line in free route maps and there are numerous clubs all round the capital if you want to go beyond the basics and start racing.
By John Wilkes
Visit British Cycling for more information.