Bite size guide to Olympic cycling events and TV schedule

Olympic Road Race – The course

Women’s Olympic Road Race – The Favourites

Men's Olympic Road Race - The Favourites

Guide to Track Cycling

Olympic Mountain Biking

Cycling TV Schedule

Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fuelled nightlife and spectacular football matches: welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa.

The host of the 28th edition of the Games, Rio de Janiero, opens its doors to 10,500 athletes on 5th August. We guide you through Olympic cycling events, road, track and MTB, when to watch and who to watch.

Jamaican David Weller, Olympic track medallist
Condor rider, David Weller, at the 1980 Moscow Games. The rider remains the first and only Jamaican to win an Olympic medal in a non-track and field sport.

Olympic Torch divider
Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Can any Olympic host ever top director Danny Boyle's ode to England that was the London 2012 opening ceremony? It had everything from Spice Girls to a yellow-jersey-clad Sir Bradley Wiggins hitting a gong.
If any venue can, the Brazilians will give it a good shot. The opening ceremony won’t take place in the Olympic park, but instead in the Maracanã Stadium on Friday 5th August at 23.15 (UK Time).

Known as one of the temples of world football, Maracanã lies north of the Copacabana beach in the main part of the city. Seating 78,800 the stadium hosted the finals of the 1950 and 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The creative directors for the ceremony will be the Brazilian film directors Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and producer Daniela Thomas (who co-directed the handover from London 2012) and Andrucha Waddington. Deborah Colker, Brazil's most celebrated choreographer, will prepare a cast of over 6000 volunteers who will dance in the opening ceremony, of which the rehearsals started at the end of May 2016.

The ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics would have a significantly lower budget than those of other recent Olympics, totalling only 10% of the total budget for the ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics.

Maracana stadium will host Olympic ceremonies

Rio Olympics 2016 divider

Map of Rio Olympic Road Race

 The Olympic Road Race - The Course

August 5 and 6

The racing kicks off from the Copacabana with the men's road race on August 6, followed by the women's road race the next day. The course is tough and hilly, best described as the tropical Ardennes and will suit classics and one day riders.  Rather than race from point to point, riders will tackle two large circuits and head back to the centre and the iconic 4km Copacabana beach for sprint finish.

February is the hottest month in Rio de Janeiro with an average temperature of 28°C (81°F) and the coldest is July at 21°C. It is expected temperatures will hit around 25°C (77°F) during the Olympics. It is likely the riders will face similar conditions to that in London 2012. Last years' Rio 2016 test event was won by Alexis Vuillermoz (France), followed by Belgium’s Serge Pauwels and French climber Romain Bardet.


Cobbles and the climbs

Heading west out of the main part of the city, along the coast, past the Olympic Park to large national park of Grumari, the riders will travel along the a beach front section of cobbled stones before swinging up the Grumari climb. A 1.2km ascent with average gradient of 7 per cent and a peak of 13 per cent.

The route descends before climbing the dragging Grota Funda (which rarely strays from its 4.5 per cent average over its 2.1km distance). Riders will lap this circuit a few times before heading back towards the city centre and the second circuit.

Where the race will be won

The most difficult part of the race is likely to come on the second circuit section called the ‘Canoas/Vista Circuit’. The road climbs up to Vista Chinesa a beautiful high view point overlooking the Rio lagoon (shown below). The ascent to Vista Chinesa is 8.9km. The average gradient is 5.4% but there are two misleading dips and the road contains many sections above 10%. The men will tackle three ascents (one for women). The descent from the climb is far from easy, with a technical 6km descent, it’s likely that this might be where the race is decided prior to a 20km flat run-in to the finish.


Olympic Time Trial

The course for the time trial uses the hilly Grumari circuit. After an incredibly strong performance in the uphill Tour de France uphill time trial on stage 18. Chris Froome is the overwhelming favourite for gold after Dutchman Tom Dumoulin broke his arm at the 2016 Tour de France.

The women will complete one lap of the 29.8km course, while the men will do two, making it a tough day out in the Rio sunshine for the time trialists over a 59.6km course.

The men's and women's event will take place on August 10 from 13.30pm (UK time).


mens course profile
Womens course profile
Grumari Circuit Climb, Rio 2016 The Vista Chinesa summit, Rio 2016
Romain Bardet at Olympic test event, Vista Chinesa climb
Race Favourite divider

Women's Olympic Road Race - The Favourites


Lizzie Armitstead (GBR)

Four years ago, Lizzie Armitstead (top right) was edged out by Marianne Vos in London, and the Yorkshire woman has identified the road race as one of her major targets this year. Having been crowned World Champion last year, an Olympic gold is now the main achievement missing from her palmares. The World Champion will be supported by Nikki Harris, and Emma Pooley who returns from retirement.


Anna van der Breggen (NED)

The Dutch rider (centre-right) took home silver at the 2015 World Championship, a good all-rounder, she can climb over short steep ascents and long drags. Van der Breggen won the women’s Fleche Wallonne this year as well as finish 3rd in the women’s Giro. She has a strong team around her including Marianne Vos and is hotly tipped.


Megan Guarnier (USA)

New Yorker, Guarnier might be Team USA’s best bet for a medal in the Olympic road race, something the sport hasn’t seen since Connie Carpenter won the very first women’s Olympic road race in 1984. She is supported by USA’s Evelyn Stevens another pre-race hot tip. Guarnier is the team mate of Armistead in their trade team, Boels Dolmans and this year she take taken home the yellow jersey in the Tour of California and Pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia.


Emma Johansson (SWE)

Emma Johansson, as one of the most consistently successful female riders of the past decade. The Swede won silver in the 2008 games and for the accomplished rider 2016 will be her final full racing season culminating with a punt and the elusive Olympic gold


Marianne Vos (NED)

Since winning gold in London, out-sprinting Lizzie Armitstead, Marianna Vos (bottom right) has had a tricky four years. She’s had a serious back operation and hamstring injuries that forced her out of action. 2016 started slow for Vos, but into the summer she she snatched a wins in the Tour of California and Tour of Britain. Vos has 12 world titles to her name across several disciplines. Until she retires she can never be ruled out.

Lizzie Armitstead

Anna van Breggan

Marianna Vos

Rio 2016 divider


Julian Alaphillippe

Greg van Avermart

Men's Olympic Road Race - The Favourites


Alejandro Valverde (EPS)

The classic style course favours the Spinard well, he is the odds on favourite but he could be tired after dragging his team leader, Nairo Quintana around the Tour de France.


Vicenzo Nibali (ITA)

Not a true classics rider, but currently Italy’s best Gran Tour rider, the Giro Italia rider is someone who can punch over the climbs, he’s held back in the Tour and could be saving himself for Olympic victory.


Chris Froome (GBR)

Froome has stated that one of his goals this summer was the yellow jersey and Olympic road race. But after three weeks at the Tour de France it is likely he’s play more of an influential role in the road race and aim for gold in the time trial.


Julian Alaphillippe (FRA)

France hasn't won a medal in the men's road race since Arnaud Geyre claimed silver at the 1956 Games in Melbourne. The French National team are hoping the young  Etixx QuickStep rider can turn things around. An emerging classics favourite, Alaphillippe won the Tour of California and took second in the Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.


Greg van Avermart (BEL)

Belgian, van Avermart took victory on stage 5 of this years Tour and held the yellow jersey for a number of days. He's often found in the right breakaway move. A powerful rider, great a short climbs he's featured on the podium of classics races very frequently, but hasn't been able to find the top step.

Rio 2016 Divider
Great Britain in Team Pursuit

Olympic Track Cycling

August 11 and 16

Track cycling events have been organised at all the editions of the Games since 1896, with the exception of the 1912 Games in Stockholm, when only the road race was staged. Between 1924 and 1992, the range of events was generally; sprint, time trial over one kilometre, tandem and team pursuit.
Women have competed in the track events since the Seoul Games in 1988, the year that marked the appearance of women in the sprint event, followed by the individual pursuit in 1992.

Olympic track cycling takes place in the the Rio Olympic Velodrome inside the Olympic park. Events begin on day six of the games, August 11 and run until August 16. The Endurance events open the track schedule. Team GB are hot favourites in several disciplines including the highly regarded Team Pursuit, team sprint. Laura Trott aims to defend her gold medal in the women’s omnium. After some ‘will he won’t he’ media hype, Mark Cavendish qualified for the men’s omnium and aims to win his first Olympic medal.
Men’s/Women’s Team Pursuit

Men's Olympic Record:3:51.659 min (London 2012, Great Britain)
Women's Olympic Record: 3:14.051 min (London 2012, Great Britain)

The men’s event is competed over a distance of 16 laps, 4 km, by a team of 4 riders. The women’s event is competed over a distance of 12 laps, 3 km, by a team of three riders.
The objective is to cover the distance in the fastest time. Riders in a team follow each other closely and the lead rider peels off the front, swings up the track banking and rejoins the team at the rear.
Time is taken by the third rider to cross the line. 
Team GB riders: Odds on favourites in this event. The men's team features Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Owain Doull, Mark Cavendish


Men’s/Women’s Team Sprint

Men's Olympic Record: 42.6 seconds (London 2012, Great Britain)
Women's Olympic Record: 32.42 seconds (London 2012, China)

A three-man team time trial held over three laps, or a two-woman event held over two laps. Similar to the team pursuit event, two teams race against each other, starting on opposite sides of the track. The team with the fastest time is the winner.

Team GB riders: Jason Kenny, Phillip Hindes and Callum Skinner are defending Olympic champions and will contest the men’s sprint disciplines, with Rebecca James and Katy Marchant taking part in the women’s. Both teams failed to place on the podium at the Track World Championships in the spring. 
New Zealand are the current favourites for gold.


Men’s/Women’s Keirin

The Keirin is a mass-start, eight lap race. Riders are paced behind a motorcycle (known as a derny). Riders remain behind the motorbike for 6 laps, before peeling off and the riders sprint hell for leather to take the win.

Team GB riders: Becky James will contest the Keirin for GB with Jason Kenny or Matt Crampton selected for the men. Becky James has performed well in recent World Championships and placed on the podium.

Men’s/Women’s Omnium

The Men’s and Women’s Omnium will be held over two days in which all riders compete against each other in six different disciplines (three sprint and three endurance). Riders accumulate points in each race, similar to the Hepthalon in athletics.

Team GB riders: Laura Trott is reigning Olympic champion and multiple World Champion in this event. Mark Cavendish will take part for the men.

The omnium consists of the following disciplines, in order:

A flying lap time trial of 250m. Riders are allowed a rolling start before setting their one lap time.

A points race of 30km for men and 20km for women (roughly 120–160 laps). A sprint is held every 10 laps, a whistle is blown and riders sprint mid race. The aim is to accrue as many points as possible on the sprint laps.

An elimination race of 48 laps. Riders are eliminated each lap one by one until only two remain and they have to sprint for the win.

An individual pursuit of 4km for men and 3km for women with the riders seeded on how they finished in the scratch race.

A scratch race of 15km for men and 10km for women (or the closest number of laps to that distance). First rider over the line is the winner.

A 1km time trial for men and a 500m time trial for women.


Men/Women's Individual Sprint

Two riders go head to head. The rider who can make it to the line first after three laps is the winner. The best of three races wins. Riders are paired in 'matches' after competing in a 200 metre qualifying time trial.

The Individual Sprint is about power and tactics. Riders need a huge turn of speed and as they try to outwit their opponent. It's a huge game of cat and mouse.

Team GB riders: The sprint was dominated for years by Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, both of whom have now retired and currently Great Britain doesn't show as much dominance. Jason Kenny is GB's medal hopeful with Katy Merchant and Becky James riding for Great Britain in the women's event.

Rio 2016 Divider

Olympic Mountain Bike Course

Olympic Mountain Bike Race

August 20 and 21

Team GB riders

There will be only be one male Team GB rider in the XC at the Olympic Games this year, and none in the female category.
In 2012, Annie Last qualified for the London 2012 for Team GB. She was the first British rider to do so in over a decade, but due to a chronic back injury she’s been struggling in the period since. British Cycling places less budget and relevance on this discipline and therefore did not attempt to support female athletes to qualify for a place.

In the men's event, 22-year-old Greg Ferguson was a late addition to the Team GB cycling announcement though, and ensures there will be a Team GB presence at the mountain bike race in Rio.

Ferguson won a silver at the U23 European Mountain Bike Cross Country Championships before taking his first ever win at the World Cup in Val di Sole last year, finishing the year with a bronze in the U23 World Champs.


Road champ goes back to the dirt


Peter Sagan at the 2016 Tour de France

Interestingly, Peter Sagan has given up his place in the road team and switched to the mountain bike race. The current World Champion would have been a serious favourite for the men's road race, but he decided that he didn't like the course and with Slovakia's limited qualifying places, he has wanted to try and win gold in the mountain bike event.

Sagan won the junior mountain bike world championship in 2008 before moving to road racing, so he’s no stranger to the discipline and he’s won at the highest level before.

The Course

The mountain bike centre is located at the Deodoro Park to the north west of the city. The park is home to the course for the Olympics cross country mountain biking will consist of single track, two main steep uphills and downhill sections, and an array of man made features in between. The circuit is 5km long, with men completing more laps of the course than the women will.

The exact course won’t be decided until very close to the event, but men will ride around 30 miles and women around 25.

The riders have been singing the praises of the XC track for the Olympics since a test event in October, with the UCI delegate even saying it would be “way better” than the London 2012 track.


Julien Absalon

Key contenders

Julien Absalon (FRA) won the gold medal both at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and would’ve been in the mix for a third consecutive gold had it not been for a mechanical.

Nino Schurter (CHE) is the reigning mountain bike cross-country world champion, after beating Julien Absalon into the top spot at the World Champs in Vallnord, Andorra in September 2015. Switzerland’s Nino Schurter will be looking to go one better this summer and complete the ultimate double by winning an Olympic gold.

Jolanda Neff (CHE) is one of the surefire favourites going into Rio, having stamped her authority on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup for the past few years and won both the 2014 and 2015 overall titles – which go to the most consistent top achiever throughout the series.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (NOR) – a quick look at Olympic cross country mountain bike history should tell you all you need to know about Dahle, having first won the World Championships in Kaprun in 2002, and having followed that up with rainbow jerseys in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Gunn-Rita Dahle also won the overall World Cup title four years running from 2003-2006, coming second as recently as 2012 and 2014.

Rio 2016 Divider

Watch all the action - Olympic Cycling TV Schedule

UK times shown

Day 1 – August 6

13.30 - 19:00 Men's Olympic Road Race


Day 2 – August 7

16:00-20:00 Women's Olympic Road Race


Day 5 – August 10

12.30 - 16:20 Men's & Women's Time Trial


Day 6 – August 11

Men's Team Sprint Qualifying
Men/Women’s Team Pursuit Qualifying
Men’s Team Sprint Finals

Day 7 – August 12

 Women’s Team Sprint Qualifying & First Round
Men’s Sprint Qualifying & Finals
Men’s Team Pursuit First Round
Women’s Team Sprint Finals
Men’s Team Pursuit Finals

Day 8 – August 13

Session 1
Women’s Keirin
Men’s Sprint Finals
Women’s Team Pursuit First Round

Session 2
Men’s Sprint Quarterfinals – Race 1
Women’s Keirin Rounds & Finals
Women’s Team Pursuit Finals

Day 9 – August 14

Women’s Sprint Qualifying
Men’s Omnium 15km Scratch Race
Men’s & Sprint Finals
Men’s Omnium 4km Individual Pursuit
Men’s Omnium Elimination Race

Day 10 – August 15

Session 1 
Women’s Sprint Finals
Men’s Omnium : Kilometre time trial
Women’s Omnium 10km Scratch Race

Session 2
Men’s Omnium Flying Lap
Women’s Sprint Race for 9th-12th Places
Women’s Omnium 3km Individual Pursuit
Men’s Omnium 40km Points Race
Women’s Omnium Elimination Race

Day 11 – August 16

Session 1
Women’s Sprint finals 
Men’s Keirin First Round
Women’s Omnium 500m Time Trial
Women’s Sprint Race for 5th-8th Places

Session 2
Women’s Sprint Finals
Women’s Omnium Flying Lap
Men’s Keirin Second Round & Finals
Women’s Omnium 25km Points Race

Day 16 – August 20

15:30-17:30 Men's Olympic Mountain Bike Race

Day 17 – August 21

15:30-17:30 Women's Olympic Mountain Bike Race