London 2012 Guide to…Track Cycling

BRITAIN’S domination of the track cycling events in Beijing has made this summer’s competition one of the most eagerly anticipated by Team GB and fans alike.

A return of seven gold medals out of a possible nine was a phenomenal achievement, led by Sir Chris Hoy, who claimed three of them in Beijing in 2008.

  • Speed counts

Of course, in most of the Olympic sports, it is the fastest man/woman who collects gold.

And cycling is no different, and speed really does count. Medals can be decided on split seconds, so riders use every possible method  (legally!) to maximise their chances on the track.

From shaving your arms to having no brakes on your bike, it’s all done to be as aero-dynamic as possible.

  • Tour de force

The French are top of the track cycling medal table, with a staggering 40 gold medals. GB lie in third behind the Italians who are second.

  • Track Cycling in London

188 athletes (104 men, 84 women) will take part in 10 medal events – five each for men and women.

  • The five disciplines

The Sprint: two riders race each other over three laps. Sounds simple but it’s all about tactics, as they both start off extremely slowly before unleashing an explosion of pace as they bid to outpace each other to the finish line.

Keirin: a seven rider race over 2km. The cyclists follow a pace-setting motorbike until 700m to go in the race. It is then a free-for-all leading to a frantic finale.

Omnium: a new event, where riders are assessed in six different categories. Points are awarded in reverse order, with the rider having the least obtaining gold. The six events are: timed flying lap, points’ race, elimination race, individual pursuit, scratch race and time trial.

Team Sprint: a three lap race between two teams that each have three riders.  The teams start on opposite sides of the Velodrome and each rider pulls off until it’s a head-to-head for the final lap.

Team Pursuit: men’s teams are composed of four riders, while women are made up of three. The track distance is 4km for men and 3km for women. Teams start on opposite sides, so there are two ways of winning: either by overtaking your opponent or by finishing fastest. Sounds simple!

  • Ones to watch

Hoy and Victoria Pendleton lead the British contingent, and Hoy has backed Team GB to secure all 10 gold medals. 19-year-old Laura Trott is also one to keep an eye on, having won two world titles already at the world track championships.

Meanwhile, Aussie Anne Meares looks set to renew her rivalry with Pendleton, while France’s Gregory Bauge and Kevin Sireau, and the German trio of Robert Fostermann, Maximilian Levy and Stefan Nimke will all attempt to stop British dominance.

And finally…

Look out for: broken pieces of record. Likely to be done.

Not to be confused with: those magnificent men and their flying machines. Sounds similar, but that was a film from the 60s…

Useless but informative fact: the velodrome is made from 56km of sustainable Siberian pine and was fixed into place with 300,000 nails.

Track cycling in two words: flippin’ fast.

The Track Cycling races take place at the Velodrome, between Thursday 2nd and Tuesday 7th August.

Do you think Sir Chris Hoy will dominate once again?

Leave your thoughts/tips below!

Follow me on Twitter: @jonathanl50

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London 2012 Guide to…Road Cycling

THE Road Cycling events are always extremely popular among sports fans, and this summer should be no different.

And with our very own Mark Cavendish being one of the favourites, road cycling is seen as one of Team GB’s best chances of claiming gold.

  • Dodgy start

Cycling had a stuttering start to the Olympics.

It was one of the sports in Athens at the first modern Games in 1896, but it was dropped from the next three Games, returning in 1912.

  • Road cycling in London

There will be two medals apiece for male and female cyclists this summer – one for the road race and one for the time trial.

A total of 212 cyclists will be competing: 145 men and 67 women.

The road race is 250km for men and 140km for women, and will start and finish in The Mall.

The time trial is over 44km for men and 29km for women, and Hampton Court Palace is the beginning and end for this race.

Each rider starts 90 seconds apart, so if they are caught, it’s curtains so I’d recommend they simply admire the views.

  • Ones to watch

Cavendish is obviously the one to keep your eyes on (providing you’re running alongside him). The ‘Manxman’ is the world’s best sprinter, so no pressure then.

Another Brit, Nicole Cooke won road race gold in Beijing, so a repeat of that would do just nicely.

  • Va Va Voom

France are top of the cycling medals’ table, with a total of 86 medals, including 40 gold.

Italy lie in second place, with Britain in third with an overall tally of 63 medals.

And Finally…

Look out for: crashes at the end of the road race. They’re not inevitable, but if there’s a large amount of riders 500m from the finish line all going for one medal, well, you get the gist.

Not to be confused with: the Tour de France. Yes it’s in the same month, it’s lots of cyclists on a road, and it’s brutal, but there’s no yellow, green or polka-dot jerseys, it’s over in a matter of days and of course it’s in England!

Useless but informative fact: Hampton Court Palace is one of just two surviving palaces which were owned by Henry VIII. (The other is St James’s Palace)

Road cycling in two words: extremely competitive.

The road races and time trials will take place between Saturday 28th July and Wednesday 1st August.

Do you think Cavendish will win gold?

Leave your thoughts below.

Follow me on Twitter: @jonathanl50

London 2012 Guide to…Mountain Biking

MOUNTAIN BIKING is not quite as it sounds. If it was simply climbing mountains, then that would be pretty amazing, no, actually incredible!

But mountain biking is actually more like riding through a farm. And this is precisely what all 80 riders will be doing this summer in London.

  • Californication

Like fine wine and gold among other things, California is famous for being the place where mountain biking really took off. The sport was seen their in the 1970s in the hills of northern California and it soon became a worldwide activity.

The first World Championship took place in 1990 and Mountain Biking made its debut appearance in Atalanta in 1996.

  • Balance

Balance is key in Mountain Biking, and it’s not just about keeping two wheels on the ground.

It’s about negotiating the course in the quickest possible time, while trying to avoid damage to the bike (something very likely to happen considering the terrain).

The bikes are obviously light to help with speed but this makes them more prone to those little problems that can take vital seconds to repair.

And yes, riders do carry their own tool kit with them, so it’s DIY!

  • Mountain Biking in London

Men and women compete in separate races on Hadleigh Farm in Essex – with 50 male competitors and 30 female.

However, don’t bank on them all to finish, as only 28 men out fo 50 finished the course in Beijing.

The men’s course is approximately 45km, while the women’s is 35km. This consists of several laps of the course.

Riders lapped by the leader are eliminated though, as are those who have severely damaged their bike and are unable to repair it at the time.

  • Ones to watch out for

Julien Absalon will be hoping for a third successive gold medal in the men’s race, having won in both Athens in 2004 and Beijing four years later.

Sabine Spitz won women’s gold in 2008 and is one of the favourites for the title this summer.

And finally…

Look out for: punctures. Unfortunately for riders, all too common and will no doubt means the end of Olympic dreams for some of the riders.

Not to be confused with: the Tour de France’s mountain stages. It’s completely different.

Useless but informative fact: California’s Mount Tamalpais is known as the first mountain where the sport was first contested.

Mountain Biking in two words: stay on!

The Mountain Biking races take place over the weekend 11/12 August at Hadleigh Farm in Essex.

London 2012 Guide to…Cycling – BMX

  • IT IS safe to say that BMX cycling is not for the faint hearted.

Bikes have just one gear and one brake, and their wheels are less than half the size of a road bike. Fear is not in the vocabulary of the bikers’ minds.

It all might sound rather stupid and just a bit of fun. In fact, it probably is, which is what makes this sport so exciting and compelling.

And BMX cycling is one of the Olympic Games’ newest sports, making just its second appearance this summer in London.

  • Any relation to BMW?

Afraid not. BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross (clever eh?!). It’s known as this because the sports is motocross tricks performed on a pedal bicycle.

Motocross is basically a form of motorbike racing on off-road circuits, and it really took off in California in the 1960s.This inspired the sport of BMX which is the same sort of thing, but with a pedal bike which arguably makes it more demanding.

  • BMX in E20

Both the men’s and women’s races take place on a 450m track next to the Velodrome in the Olympic Park.

Groups of eight riders begin on an eight-metre high ramp, and they must negotiate a combination of hairpin bends, jumps and slopes – all at speeds pushing 25mph.

Each rider starts by completing a lap within a set time, in order to be seeded for the following round.

Once riders have made it to the semi-final stage, the top four riders from each progress through to the final.

  • Ones to watch out for

Only six Olympic medals have ever been competed for, so it’s difficult to say.

America claimed three of them in Beijing, but not the golds. They went to France’s Anne-Caroline Chausson and Maris Strombergs of Latvia.

  • In the wars

As mentioned above, BMX racing can be an extremely dangerous sport.

A moment’s loss of concentration or balance can be costly.

Britain’s Shanaze Reade has faced broken metatarsals, elbows and fingers in her career, along with a fractured knee.

And finally…

Look out for: bunny hops. This is the term used to describe the move when bikers raise both wheels off the ground.

Not to be confused with: BMW racing. Easily done.

Useless but informative fact: Only one rider per country is allowed to compete at the Games. No pressure then.

BMX in two words: speed maniacs!

BMX Cycling will be taking place on the BMX track (funnily enough), next to the Olympic Park between Wednesday 8 and Friday 10 August.

It’s ‘le Grand Depart’ for the 2012 Tour de France

BRADLEY Wiggins and Cadel Evans start as the favourites for this year’s Tour de France, the 99th in its history.

In what could potentially be a classic Brit v Aussie clash, Wiggins, 32, will be looking to overcome the disappointment of last year’s crash which brought his involvement in the Tour to a premature end, while Evans, 35, won the Tour last year and will not give up his title lightly.

Wiggins has had a stunning season so far, being virtually unbeaten in road stages and having won Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Evans on paper is the better ‘all-round’ rider but it will be interesting if he is able to cope with the pressure.

The other contenders for the maillot jaune include Denis Menchov, Vincenzo Nibali, Levi Leipheimer and Ryder Hesjedal.

In terms of the best sprinter, Mark Cavendish is again the odds-on favourite, but will his Olympics preparation be too much of a distraction?

Watch out for Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel, Matt Goss, José Joaquin Rojas and André Greipel, who will all be strongly competing for the green jersey.

This year’s route begins in Liege and covers almost 3,500km over the next three weeks, ending on July 22 on the Champs-Elysées.

There are nine flat stages, four medium mountain stages, five mountain stages, two individual time-trials, one prologue and two rest days.

Who do you think will win?

Will the British duo come out on top?

Leave your thoughts below.