The first bikes are believed to have emerged from the forests of central Germany in 1816. The first official bike race took place in 1868 in France. In 1885, safety bicycles were manufactured in Coventry, England – a close cousin of today’s bike.
Cycling was introduced at the first modern Olympics in 1896. In 1903, Maurice Garin won the first Tour de France, which covered 1,450 miles in six stages. Road racing traditions continue today.
At the turn of the century, track cycling also garnered attention in the United States and was one of the nation’s most popular spectator sports. Events attracted celebrity-studded crowds that filled the Chicago Stadium and Madison Square Garden in New York City. In the late 1930s and 1940s, however, track cycling fell out of favor. Hundreds of velodromes were torn down as a result.
In the 1970s, cycling in the U.S. had a mini-Renaissance thanks, in part, to the advent of fat-tired all-terrain mountain bikes. Durango, Colorado, hosted the first national championship in 1986 and the first world championship in 1990. Americans Ned Overend and Julie Furtado won the inaugural world titles.
Also in the 1970s, bicycle motocross (BMX) racing became a popular sport in Southern California after some cyclists modified 20-inch Schwinn Stingray bicycles. In April 1981, the International BMX Federation was founded, and the first World BMX Racing Championships were held in 1982. In January 1993, BMX was integrated into the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some BMX racers began performing tricks, and soon BMX freestyle emerged as its own discipline. American Bob Haro, who was a stunt rider in Steven Spielberg's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," is considered the Godfather of BMX freestyle. He started the first BMX freestyle tour in 1981, and the sport was subsequently featured in many televised events. In 2016, it was integrated into the UCI, which helped form a BMX Freestyle Park World Cup. After a successful season, BMX freestyle was added to the 2020 Olympic program in 2017.
- Sprint: 1896–1900; 1908; 1920–present (27)
- Team Pursuit: 1908; 1920–present (25)
- Team Sprint: 2000–present (6)
- Keirin: 2000–present (6)
- Madison: 2000–08; 2020–present (4)
- Omnium: 2012–present (3)
- Sprint: 1988–present (9)
- Team Pursuit: 2012–present (3)
- Team Sprint: 2012–present (3)
- Keirin: 2012–present (3)
- Omnium: 2012–present (3)
- Madison: –present (1)
- Road race: 1896; 1936–present (21)
- Time trial: 1912–1932; 1996–present (12)
- Road race: 1984–present (10)
- Time trial: 1996–present (7)
- Cross-country: 1996–present (7)
- Cross-country: 1996–present (7)
- Racing: 2008–present (4)
- Freestyle: –present (1)
- Racing: 2008–present (4)
- Freestyle: –present (1)
A day before her 43rd birthday, American Kristin Armstrong became the oldest Olympic women's cycling medalist ever with her third straight gold medal in women's time trial. In the women's road race, leader Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands suffered a frightening crash in rainy conditions, which left her with a concussion and three small fractures in her spine. Her countrywoman, Anna van der Breggen, won the race.
Great Britain led the cycling medal table with six golds and twelve total medals, carried by its performance on the track. With gold in team pursuit, Bradley Wiggins became the first cyclist ever to win eight Olympic medals. Jason Kenny tied compatriot Chris Hoy for the most all-time Olympic cycling gold medals with six after winning gold in sprint, keirin, and team sprint.
Entering the 2016 Rio Games, Leontien van Moorsel was the all-time leader in women's cycling gold medals with four and total medals with six. At their conclusion, she was tied for the most ever in both categories. Australian Anna Meares won her sixth career Olympic medal, a bronze in women's keirin, while Laura Kenny (nee Trott) won her third and fourth career gold medals in Rio in omnium and team pursuit.
China won gold in women's team sprint, the country's first-ever Olympic gold medal in cycling.
Swiss cross-country cyclist Nino Schurter – after ascending the medal ladder with a bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing and a silver at the 2012 Games in London, collecting five world titles on the way – finally attained Olympic gold in the men's event. Sweden's Jenny Rissveds beat out Beijing runner-up Maja Wloszczowska of Poland.
Colombia's Mariana Pajon defended her Olympic title, and American Connor Fields unseated two-time Olympic champion Maris Strombergs of Latvia to win the U.S. its first Olympic BMX gold.
In the women's road race, Holland's Marianne Vos won the gold medal, beating out Britain's Elizabeth Armistread (silver) and Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya (bronze) on a typically rainy Sunday in London.
In the women's time trial, Kristin Armstrong of the United States, who had retired to start a family after winning gold in Beijing before returning to competition a year before the Games, dominated the field finishing more than 15 seconds faster than her closest competitor. Taking place shortly before her 39th birthday, Armstrong's victory made her cycling's oldest female gold medalist.
For the men, Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan won the gold, finishing ahead of Colombia's Rigoberto Uran Uran and Norway's Alexander Kristoff. In the men's time trial, Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins emerged victorious in his home country to became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France and Olympic gold in the same year, beating Germany's Tony Martin and fellow countryman Chris Froome. The United States' Taylor Phinney finished fourth in both the road race and the time trial.
In men's BMX, Latvia's Maris Strombergs remained the Olympic sport's only male champion, winning his second straight Olympic gold with Sam Willoughby and Carlos Oquendo Zabala rounding out the field. On the women's side, Colombia's Mariana Pajon seized the gold medal, only Colombia's second since it began competing in the Games.
The host country dominated inside the velodrome, where riders from Great Britain captured seven of a possible 10 gold medals. Victoria Pendelton represented England nobly with a gold medal in women's keirin and a silver in the women's sprint, and compatriot Chris Hoy won his sixth gold medal, this time in the team sprint.
Two of Great Britain's big winners – Jason Kenny, who took gold in the individual and team sprints, and Laura Trott, who won the omnium and was a member of the Brits' team pursuit gold – later revealed that they were dating after being photographed behind football legend David Beckham at a beach volleyball match.
On the mountain bike course, Jaroslav Kulhavy and Julie Bresset won gold in the men's and women's events respectively. Georgia Gould captured the only mountain biking medal for the U.S. as she captured bronze in the women's race.
On a hilly road course in Beijing, climber Spain Samuel "Sammy" Sanchez stunned the field by sprinting to victory from a small breakaway group. Italy's Davide Rebellin finished second ahead of Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, who also took gold in the men's time trial. However, Rebellin would test positive for CERA, a banned blood boosting agent, thus bumping Cancellara into the silver medal slot with Russia's Alexandr Kolobnev rounding out the road race podium.
Due to strict regulations put in place by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG), spectators were not permitted to stand roadside along the road courses. For the women, this was the least of the problems, as the road race – won by Great Britain’s Nicole Cooke – was held in a driving rain that lasted the entire competition.
American Kristin Armstrong won the women's time trial, defeating Brit Emma Pooley by 25 seconds. It was the only U.S. cycling gold.
Britain dominated the track events, taking a haul of seven gold medals. Chris Hoy become a superstar with his three wins and was subsequently knighted. Bradley Wiggins, who too would be knighted but after the future 2012 Games in London, won two golds.
On a technical course in blistering conditions, France's Julien Absalon effortlessly defended his Athens gold medal in the men's cross-country mountain bike race ahead of teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud. Nino Schurter, 22, of Switzerland, turned heads by finishing in third.
BMX, short for bicycle motocross, was added to the Olympic program. Latvian Maris Strombergs and Frenchwoman Anne-Caroline Chausson were crowned the first Olympic champions in BMX cycling.
One month after a back injury forced him out of the Tour de France, American Tyler Hamilton climbed from third place at the halfway mark to overtake Sydney gold-medalist Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia and win the Olympic men's road time trial.
"This is fantastic," Hamilton said. "I've dreamt about a gold medal ever since I was a kid. I'm really proud to represent my country. This the greatest moment of my career."
Fellow American Bobby Julich overcame a broken right wrist suffered in the Tour de France to take the bronze.
Hamilton came up with a positive doping "A" test after the race, but got to keep his medal after his "B" test was thrown out on a technicality. However, in 2011 he admitted to blood doping, a practice he claims to have learned while a member of Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team, and subsequently returned his gold medal.
Australia dominated the track cycling competition, picking up 10 medals, including five gold, in the 12 events contested. Among the highlights were Anna Mears setting a world record of 33.952 seconds en route to a gold medal in the women's time trial; Ryan Bailey winning gold in the men's sprint and keirin events; the Aussie men's pursuit team setting a world record in the first round before winning gold; and Graeme Brown and Stuart O'Grady winning Madison gold.
In 2000, Australian Katie Mactier gave up her career at a large Melbourne advertising agency to devote herself full-time to cycling. Four years later, she earned her first Olympic medal, silver in the women's individual pursuit. Originally a road competitor, Mactier only added track cycling to her repertoire in 2003, when she nearly beat Dutch Olympic champion Leontien van Moorsel in the individual pursuit at the World Championships that year. Sarah Ulmer of New Zealand set a world record in winning gold while Van Moorsel took bronze in her Olympic farewell.
Thirty-year-old cyclist Leontien Zijlaard, her career once jeopardized by an eating disorder, was the star of Sydney's cycling competition. The Dutchwoman's stunning dominance began on the track with a victory in the individual pursuit, followed by silver in the points race.
Germany's Jens Fiedler, chasing his third consecutive Olympic title in the men's sprint, lost 2-0 in the Sydney semifinals to American Marty Nothstein. Four years earlier in the Atlanta final, Nothstein lost two close races to Fiedler. This time, the Pennsylvania native seized his golden moment and defeated Florian Rousseau of France 2-0 to give the U.S. its first sprint gold since Mark Gorski at the 1984 Games.
American Chris Witty – a double-medalist in speed skating at the 1998 Nagano Games – finished fifth in the women’s 500m time trial. At the 2002 Salt Lake Games, she won the women’s 1000m gold medal in world record time.
Best capitalizing on an expanded cycling program for Sydney, France en route to its eight medals in cycling won three of the four new track events: the Olympic sprint, a team competition; the keirin, from Florian Rousseau; and the women's 500m time trial, from Felicia Ballanger, who also defended her sprint title. The only new event not won by the French was the Madison, which went to a team from Australia.
With a sweep of the road race and time trial to add to her individual pursuit victory on the track, Dutchwoman Leontien Zijlaard was one of six athletes to win three gold medals at the Sydney Games.
American Lance Armstrong, a two-time reigning Tour de France winner and cancer survivor, failed in his attempt to become the first man to win the Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal in the same year, taking the bronze in the time trial and finishing 13th in the road race. The medal, and all of Armstrong's Tour de France victories, were later revoked after it was discovered that he had used performance enhancing drugs since 1998. He had suffered fractured vertebrae in his neck shortly before the Olympics after colliding with a car during training.
Russia’s Vyacheslav Ekimov won the time trial to become the first cyclist to win Olympic gold 12 years apart — he won his first gold in 1988 in track cycling’s team pursuit event. Germany’s Jan Ullrich won the road race and placed second in the time trial.
She said before the race she'd be happy to just win bronze, and her pink bike didn't exactly convey toughness. But in the Olympic women's mountain bike event, Italy's Paolo Pezzo was as determined and tenacious as ever. After making "several errors" early, Pezzo fought for the lead on the fourth of five laps when she got entangled with Spain's two-time world champion, Margarita Fullana. Pezzo emerged from the tie-up, but Fullana fell, allowing the Italian to pull away and cruise to a successful defense of her Olympic title.
Two decades after emerging on cycling's horizon, mountain biking made its Olympic debut in Atlanta with cross-country events. Dutch world champion Bart Jan Brentjens, who prepared for the sweltering Atlanta conditions by riding a stationary bike in a hot and steamy room, comfortably won the men's race. Paola Pezzo, cycling's poster girl, took gold in the women's event ahead of favored Canadian Alison Sydor. American Susan DeMattei, a registered nurse, finished third.
With the ban on professional cyclists competing in the Olympics lifted, Spain's Miguel Indurain won gold in the time trial (road), less than two weeks after his streak of five consecutive Tour de France victories came to an end. Finishing sixth was American Lance Armstrong, who later became the second person to win five straight Tours.
Switzerland’s Pascal Richard outsprinted Denmark’s Rolf Sorensen to win the gold medal in the 137.8-mile (221.85-kilometer) men’s road race, the first open to professional riders in Olympic history. Richard dedicated his victory to his father, who died when Pascal was 18, and to 1992 Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli, who died from head injuries during the 1995 Tour de France. Casartelli’s parents attended the race. Two months after the Games, American Lance Armstrong, who finished 12th in the road race, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
France’s Jeannie Longo, considered by many to be the greatest female cyclist ever, finally captured an elusive Olympic gold medal at age 37 in her fourth Olympics. She won the gold in the road race and took the silver in the time trial. Professionals were also allowed to compete in track cycling, and France took advantage, winning four gold medals.
The U.S. won two medals – silvers by Marty Nothstein in the sprint and Erin Hartwell in the kilometer time trial.
Riding a new, high-tech bicycle that weighed less than 20 pounds, Britain's Chris Boardman dominated track cycling's individual pursuit competition. In the preliminary rounds, Boardman lowered the world record by nearly seven seconds. Then, in the race for gold, he overtook Germany's Jens Lehmann – a feat never before achieved in an Olympic pursuit final – to become Britain's first Olympic cycling champion in 72 years, since the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp.
The addition of the women's individual pursuit to the 1992 program helped lure American Rebecca Twigg and France's Jeannie Longo out of their retirements. Combined, they won seven world titles in the event in the 1980s. In a quarterfinal duel, Twigg, 29, edged Longo,33, by two inches. Twigg then lost in the semifinals to relative unknown Kathy Watt of Australia, but did earn an Olympic bronze medal to go along with her 1984 road race silver. Longo, who finished second to the 5-foot-1 Watt in the Barcelona road race, competed at two more Olympics before retiring with four career medals.
Four years after winning the inaugural women's sprint event, representing the Soviet Union, Erika Salumae took gold again in Barcelona. But this time, Salumae pedaled for her native Estonia, which had last competed independently at the 1936 Berlin Games. After becoming Estonia's first female Olympic champion, Salumae watched as the Estonian flag was raised upside down at the medal ceremony.
Spain’s Jose Moreno excited the home crowd by winning his nation’s first gold medal of the Games in the kilometer time trial. One year earlier, Moreno tested positive for steroids but was exonerated after the UCI, cycling’s international federation, found faulty procedures were used. American Erin Hartwell won the bronze.
In the road race, Italy’s Fabio Casartelli edged the Netherlands' Erik Dekker to claim the gold. It was the last time this event was closed to professionals. Casartelli would soon turn pro, and three years later in the 1995 Tour de France, a vicious crash on a mountain descent resulted in his death. Three days later, Motorola teammate Lance Armstrong of the United States won a stage that he dedicated to Casartelli. Armstrong finished 14th in the 1992 Olympic event and turned professional immediately following the race.
In the women’s road race, France’s Jeannie Longo believed she had won the gold medal when she crossed the line, but she had not realized that Australia’s Kathy Watt had snuck out of the peloton and cruised to victory.
As the USSR's Aleksandr Kirichenko entered the final lap of the men's kilometer track time trial, his rear tire began to deflate. By the time he reached the finish line, the tire had lost half of its air. Though permitted to re-run the race, Kirichenko and his coach decided against it, figuring he would be too exhausted to post a faster time. When pre-race favorite Martin Vinnicombe of Australia, the final competitor, finished 0.285 of a second behind Kirichenko, the Soviet had Olympic gold to accompany his flat tire.
Just seven months before competing in the first Olympic women's sprint event, track cyclist Christa Rothenburger of East Germany won silver and gold in speed skating at the Calgary Games. In Seoul, participating in the sport she took up as a form of off-season training, Rothenburger finished runner-up to Soviet Erika Salumae to take silver in the sprint and become the only athlete with Olympic medals from both the Summer and Winter Games in the same year.
The men's and women's road races were marked by wild finishes, in which East German Olaf Ludwig and Dutchwoman Monique Knol, respectively, were victorious.
Los Angeles 1984
Women contested an Olympic road race for the first time at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, helping the United States end a 72-year medal drought in cycling. Near the end of the 49.2-mile (79.2-kilometer) inaugural race, five cyclists made up the lead pack, including Americans Rebecca Twigg and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, who had competed in speed skating at the 1972 Winter Olympics at age 14. With 200 meters to go, Twigg broke away, followed by Carpenter-Phinney, who caught her teammate just before the finish line. Carpenter-Phinney then "threw" her bike forward and won the gold medal by less than than half a wheel, becoming the first female Olympic cycling champion. Carpenter-Phinney’s husband, Davis Phinney, finished fifth in the men’s road race and won a bronze in the team time trial. The team time trial was held on the Artesia Freeway, and the medal ceremony was held in front of the Regal Plastic Company and an exit sign for Avalon Boulevard.
With several top cyclists absent because of the Soviet-led boycott, the final of the men's sprint in 1984 saw American Mark Gorski defeat compatriot Nelson Vails. The last time a U.S. cyclist earned a medal in the track event was 1900, when John Henry Lake took bronze. Three years prior, Vails worked as a bike messenger in New York City. Gorski, a 1980 Olympian who didn't compete in Moscow because of the U.S. boycott, had retired following a crash that left him with a broken collarbone and concussion.
The U.S. won nine medals: four gold, three silver and two bronze.
Host-nation cyclist Sergei Sukhoruchenkov won gold in a road race missing presumptive favorite Greg LeMond of the United States due to the American-led boycott. LeMond would never race in the Olympics. David Weller of Jamaica took bronze in the 1,000-meter time trial, the nation's first and only Olympic medal through the 2016 Games in a sport that is not track and field.
For the first time in Olympic history, track cycling events were held indoors, and the change produced some bizarre developments. Disaster struck the Czechoslovakian team when their wheels and spare tires were inadvertently fed into a trash compacter. Nonetheless, Czech Anton Tkac was able to win the 1,000-meter sprint.
West Germany came to the Games with several technical innovations. In the team pursuit, an event in which they were the reigning world champions, the West Germans rode to victory on tires filled with helium. They also brought aerodynamic one-piece silk racing suits, but were not allowed to use them because they were deemed to provide an unfair advantage.
Four Irish Republican Army cyclists joined the road race to protest the fact that the Irish Cycling Federation had competed against riders from Northern Ireland which the IRA believed should be joined with the Republic of Ireland. The quartet tried to run one Irish competitor off the road but were unsuccessful. They were arrested by West German police but later released without being charged. The original bronze medalist, Jaim Huelamo of Spain, was disqualified after testing positive for drugs.
Mexico City 1968
The Swedish all-brother quartet of Gosta, Sture, Erik and Tomas Pettersson took silver in the no-longer contested team time trial event. Four years earlier in Tokyo, the brothers, minus Tomas, claimed bronze in the same event.
The Tokyo cycling competition was marked by two extraordinary competitions. In the 121-mile road race, Italy's Mario Zanin, a mechanic from Treviso, broke away from the pack 20 meters from the finish line to win the gold medal. In an amazingly close finish, only 0.16 of a second separated the top 51 finishers. In the match sprint, where competitors often slow to a halt for positioning, Italy's Giovanni Pettenella and Pierre Trentin of France set an Olympic record by standing still for 21 minutes, 57 seconds. Today, competitors cannot remain stationary for more than 30 seconds.
The Japanese constructed an $840,000 velodrome for the Games. The facility was used for the four days of cycling competition and torn down within a year so the land-starved nation could put the site to more practical use.
The road race was the scene of the first death in Olympic competition since the 1912 marathon. In the 100-kilometer team time trial event, the temperature in Rome reached 93 degrees. Danish cyclist Knut Jensen collapsed during the race, suffering a fractured skull. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
Jensen's death was initially attributed to sunstroke, but later it was revealed that the cyclist took a blood-circulation stimulant called Ronicol prior to the race, which caused his collapse. Jensen and Portuguese marathoner Francisco Lazaro are the only two athletes ever to die in Olympic competition.
Italian track cyclist Sante Gaiardoni claimed victory in both the sprint and the kilometer time trial in Rome, becoming the only person to win both events. The reigning sprint world champion, Gaiardoni breezed through the competition three days after setting a world record in winning the time trial.
Ercole Baldini of Italy, already with a world title in the individual pursuit and a world record in the one-hour time trial in 1956, capped his superb season with gold in the Melbourne road race. France and Great Britain, who claimed that Baldini was shaded from the hot Australian sun by an Olympic film crew riding alongside him, challenged the Italian's Olympic victory, but it stood.
A sometimes-indifferent cyclist who once said, "I feel there is a lot more to this life than riding a bicycle," Russell Mockridge showed up in Helsinki five days into the 1952 Games because of an eligibility dispute. But the scramble had no adverse effect on the Australian, who raced to a pair of gold medals on the track in the time trial and tandem events. Six years later, Mockridge was killed when struck by a bus while competing in a race in Melbourne.
Jose Beyaert won France its second consecutive gold in the individual road race, which at the 1948 Games was run alongside the team race event. Finishes of each nation's three best cyclists counted toward the results of the team competition, won by Belgium.
Heavy favorite and reigning world champion Reg Harris of Great Britain, wounded in World War II as a tank driver, took silver in the sprint, which was won by Italy's Mario Ghella.
The Berlin Olympic road race featured a mass start and narrow streets that created dangerous conditions. Several racers crashed in the late stages, but Robert Charpentier of France made it through to win the gold medal in 2 hours, 33 minutes, 5 seconds — just two-tenths of a second ahead of compatriot Guy Lapebie. Charpentier slowed just before he crossed the finish line, a maneuver that was later explained by photographs, which showed Lapebie grabbing his countryman’s shirt in a desperate effort to prevent him from winning.
Two days earlier, Charpentier was a member of France's victorious pursuit team on the track. In the first of the races in the best-of-three 1,000-meter sprint, German Toni Merkens swerved to prevent Arie van Vlient of the Netherlands from passing him. Officials did not call the blatant foul. After van Vlient dropped the second race, the Dutch protested. Cycling officials decided to levy a 100 mark fine on the German but not to overturn the result. Van Vlient got a modicum of revenge by winning the 1,000-meter time trial the next day, and Merkens was killed while defending Germany from the Soviet invasion at the end of World War II.
Los Angeles 1932
Contemporary accounts report that road race gold medalist Attilio Pavesi of Italy carried a bowl of soup, a bucket of water, bananas, cinnamon rolls, jam, cheese sandwiches, spaghetti and two spare tires on his ride. He and Italy also won the team road race.
Denmark's Villy Falck Hansen won track cycling's inaugural Olympic kilometer time trial event. Australia's Edgar "Dunc" Gray, who never contested a time trial before arriving in Amsterdam, earned bronze in the race. Four years later in Los Angeles, he won gold in Olympic-record time to give Australia its first Olympic cycling champion. In 2000, Sydney organizers honored Gray by naming the Olympic velodrome after him.
At 42 years old, Mouritius "Maurice" Peeters of the Netherlands took bronze the tandem, four years after winning gold in the sprint. Peeters held the distinction of being cycling's oldest Olympic medalist of any color until Etieene de Wilde – also 42, but older by 97 days – won silver at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. The 50-kilometer race, held for its second and final time at the Olympics, was won by the Netherlands' Jacobus "Ko" Matheus Willems. France's Armand Blanchonnet won the individual time trial and carried his teammates to victory as well in the team time trial.
With a narrow victory in the sprint, 38-year-old Mouritius "Maurice" Peeters of the Netherlands became the oldest cyclist to win Olympic gold. Railroad tracks crossed the road-race course in six places, so officials were stationed at each of the crossings to record any train-caused stoppages.
Beginning at 2 a.m. on July 7, the 123 participants in cycling's inaugural Olympic time trial were sent out at two-minute intervals to cover the 199-mile (320-kilometer) course around Stockholm's Lake Malar. Near the start, Karl Landsberg of Sweden was hit by a motor-wagon and dragged along the road behind it. South Africa's Rudolph "Okey" Lewis, starting at 2:02 a.m., charged out fast and held on for gold; his winning time was 10 hours, 42 minutes, 39 seconds. Following the Games, Lewis was caught up in World War I while racing in Germany. He eventually returned to South Africa after enduring multiple war wounds and detention in several prison camps.
London's characteristically wet weather did not bode well for its Olympic cyclists at the 1908 Games. The Sporting Life noted that a flooded track during the Games was "the rule rather than the exception." Although cycling's 1,000-meter match sprint was contested, no medals were awarded following a bizarre turn of events. Four cyclists started the final, but over the course of the race, two were sidelined with punctured tires. In the end, Maurice Schilles of France beat Great Britain's Benjamin Jones by inches. But the race exceeded the 105-second time limit and was thus declared void.
St. Louis 1904
American cyclists made up the entirety of the competitive field at the 1904 Games, with no foreign competitors. Marcus Hurley of the U.S. won four of the seven cycling events and placed third in another. Only track races were held and none were certified as official Olympic competitions. All seven cycling events contested in St. Louis never returned to the Olympic program. After the Olympics, Hurley became an All-American basketball player at Columbia and earned a place in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
The men's points race, an event in which points were awarded to riders during sprints that took place every 10 laps, made its Olympic debut in Paris. Italy's Ernesto Mario "Enrico" Brusoni became the first Olympic points race champion, outscoring the runner-up from Germany, 21-9. Brusoni remained the event's only gold medalist until it returned to the Olympic program for the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Cycling was among the nine sports contested at the first modern Olympics, and host Greece claimed a hard-earned gold in the 54-mile road race from Athens to Marathon and back. Despite several spills along the way, one of which required switching to a friend's bike, Aristidis Konstantinidis crossed the finish line triumphant, though "covered with dust, begrimed and dirty, his whole appearance showing traces of his various accidents," as described in the official report of the 1896 Games.
The cycling competition in Athens was marked by an act of sportsmanship from Frenchman Leon Flameng. At one point during the 62-mile (100-kilometer) track race – which required 300 laps and was attended by King George I) – Flameng dismounted his bike and waited while a Greek competitor dealt with mechanical problems. Despite a late fall, Flameng -- with a French flag tied to his leg -- pedaled to an easy gold medal.
In the grueling 12-hour race, Austria’s Adolf Shmal beat Britain’s Frederick Keeping by 333 meters.