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The science behind wheeled sports
The science behind wheeled sports

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1.1 History of cycling at the Olympic Games

Cycling has quite a long history compared with many modern sports. As bicycles became relatively cheap in the mid-1800s, cycling developed first as a recreational pastime and then very shortly afterwards as a sport. It is one of the few sports that have been in every modern Olympic Games.

Although cycling is a long-established Olympic sport, there has never really been a consistent Olympic programme, with events changing from Games to Games. Races have been held over various distances and in a variety of formats: in 1896 there was a 12 hour race; in 1908 there was a 600 yard sprint; while from 1908 right up to 1972 there was even a track event for tandems (i.e. single bicycles made for two riders).

Figure 3 shows some of the major milestones in the history of cycling events at the Olympic Games.

Figure 3 Notable events in the history of cycling events at the Olympic Games.

Track cycling is also notable because, until recently, it was one of the few remaining Olympic sports where men and women did not compete in an equal number of events. In fact, since the relatively late introduction of women's events in 1984, new events for men were added to the track cycling programme even though women's events remained few in number.

However, this situation changed in 2009 when it was announced that the Olympic track cycling programme would be changed significantly for the 2012 Olympic Games. Some traditional races in the men's programme have been discontinued to make space for new women's races, and there will now be a total of ten events: five for men and five for women.