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  • The first cycle race took place in the Parc de St Cloud in Paris and Rouen 18 months later.

  • Cycling was an Olympic sport right from the start in 1896. A women’s road race was introduced in 1984, followed by a sprint in 1988.

  • Cycling at competitive level takes in track racing, road racing (the most famous race being the Tour de France which continues for three weeks every summer) as well as cyclo-cross and mountain-bike events on rougher terrain.


  • Known as the 'track'. There are wooden indoor tracks and hard-surfaced outdoor tracks. The World Championship standard length is 333 metres. Some tracks are twice this length.

  • Cycle tracks are steeply banked. The incline in the straight is never less than 12 degrees, and may be as much as 55 degrees around the bends. The minimum width of an international track is 7 metres. Three coloured lines are marked round the track. The 20-centimetres-wide blue band painted around the inside of the track is not part of the competition area and players must not cycle on it. The continuous red line painted 90 centimetres from the inside edge is called the sprinters' line. The third line, again blue, around the circumference of the track a third of the distance from the inside edge is the stayers' line.

  • Racing takes place anti-clockwise. Once a sprinter positions himself on the stayers’ line he can only be passed on the right. This is a safety measure to cut down accidents.


  • The racing bike is an expensively light piece of equipment built from alloy. A racing cyclist will need several bikes each costing $2,500 or more.

  • Competitors wear a coloured team jersey with short sleeves, and black shorts, which usually reach mid-tight. Protective helmets must be worn. These vary but recently there have been developments in aero-dynamic helmets to cut down wind resistance. They look rather like swept back Viking helmets. Then there are specials cycling shoes which fit onto the pedals, so that can not slip off. They unclip easily.

  • In road racing, when the race may be over 100 miles long, a bag is slung across the cyclist's back containing extra water and food.


  • In sprint races, usually only two contestants, a draw determines who will lead out. The leader will travel at least at walking pace. Sprinting is a cat and mouse game where the competitors often only cycle flat out over the last 200 metres of a 1,000-metre race. In any track race a rider who forces another off his bike is disqualified. In other races the last rider on each lap is eliminated until only one rider remains.


  • It is the long-distance road racing that produces the households names of cycling, rather than the more mundane track events. The Belgian- Eddie Merckx, born in 1945, is regarded as the greatest racing cyclist who rode the roads. He won no less than five Tours de France, wearing the yellow jersey presented to the winner of each day's stage for a record 96 times.

  • The great names of the games are quarterbacks going back to the legendary Joe Namath, born in May 1943 in beaver falls, Pennsylvania. In 1967 he became the first pro quarterback to throw for over 4000 yards in a single season. Not long out of college, and playing for the University of Alabama, he was bought by the New York jets for the then astronomical fee of $400,000, and in 1969 pulled off one of the greatest Superbowl shocks when the jets beat the Baltimore Colts. He played until 1977, ending up with the Los Angeles Rams.

  • Even Britain's best track rider, Chris Boardman, born near Liverpool in Lancashire, has switched to professional road racing in Europe. But before he did he left a lasting impression at the 1992 Olympics by smashing record after record in the 4,000-metre event.


  • In 1973 a gold medal was awarded at the World championships to a team that never finished! While in the lead in the 4,000 metres pursuit final against Britain, the West German front man braked to avoid an official who was replacing markers on the track. The rider behind touched his wheel and went down, causing the rest of the team to collide with him. The British "winners" refused to accept the gold and the West Germans were given the award.

  • In the New York Six Day Endurance Race of 1897, C. w. Miller rode through the six days at an amazing average speed of 14.5 m.p.h.! His sleep averaged only 4.5 hours a night.

  • The British Cyclist Tom Simpson, who rode for Peugeot, had a gift for self-promotion. He always appeared with a bowler hat and an umbrella and was known as "Major Tom".

  • The sea has been known to interrupt a boxing match, but cycling? During the early years of the sport, Australian cyclists used the track at the Western Australia cricket ground on the coast. On the occasion, during an unusually high tide, the cyclists had to pedal for their lives!

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