Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

CYCLING - TRACK

Ever since a sprint event was staged at the inaugural Olympics of the modern era at Athens 1896, track cycling has guaranteed some of the most thrilling and fast-paced action of the Games.


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A cyclist in action at the London 2012 velodrome. (© Press Association)

A cyclist in action at the London 2012 velodrome.

Cycling - Track

Ever since a sprint event was staged at the inaugural Olympics of the modern era at Athens 1896, track cycling has guaranteed some of the most thrilling and fast-paced action of the Games.

Originally held on outdoor tracks, the sport was staged indoors for the first time in a specialised velodrome at the Olympics at Montreal 1976.

However, it was 16 years later that the development of the discipline really started to accelerate with the introduction of the ultra-lightweight full carbon-fibre bikes that are now commonplace.

Great Britain's Chris Boardman surprised everyone when he arrived at Barcelona 1992 with a new and untested Lotus bicycle, as well as a futuristic-looking aerodynamic helmet, but he proved the critics wrong by emphatically winning the individual pursuit gold medal - lapping German rival and reigning world champion Jens Lehmann in the final.

That set the trend for the high-tech bikes that are used today, and the sport has continued to embrace change ever since - with engineers now helping cyclists to generate as much speed as possible by making the bikes more aerodynamic and also lighter than ever before.

The blend of technology and athletic excellence helps to make track cycling one of the most exciting sports on the Olympic programme.

Apart from Stockholm 1912, track cycling has appeared at every edition of the Games, with a women's event first introduced at Seoul 1988.

In its current format, both sprint and endurance races take place on a wooden, banked oval-shaped track measuring a minimum of 250 metres long.

The structure of the Olympic programme has changed considerably over the years and events such as the one-kilometre time trial, individual pursuit, points race and the madison have been dropped at recent Games.

The format for London 2012 sees men and women compete in identical events for the first time in Olympic history, with five being staged for each gender (the keirin, sprint, team sprint, team pursuit and omnium), although the distances raced in some of the events vary for men and women.

Great Britain has been the dominant nation in recent track cycling history. Led by triple gold medal winner Chris Hoy, Team GB won seven gold, three silver and two bronze medals at Beijing 2008.

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