So what do they have to do?
The idea of the road race is to get a rider from your team across the finish line first. The ultimate in sacrifice, teams will have a number of riders working to get one person to the finish to be in contention for the victory. The men’s Olympic road race is 155miles, the women’s 87miles.
In the time trial, the riders go off individually against the clock to achieve the fastest time over a set course. It is known as the ‘race of truth’ because it is down to the rider’s individual strength, rather than that of their team-mates.
In winning the women’s road race in 2008, Nicole Cooke claimed Great Britain’s 200th gold medal in the modern history of the Games.
Who are the best in the business?
MEN’S WORLD CHAMPION: Mark Cavendish (GB)
MEN’S OLYMPIC CHAMPION: Samuel Sanchez (Spa)
MEN’S WORLD TIME TRIAL CHAMPION: Tony Martin (Ger)
MEN’S OLYMPIC TIME TRIAL CHAMPION: Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPION: Giorgia Bronzini (Ita)
WOMEN’S OLYMPIC CHAMPION: Nicole Cooke (GB)
WOMEN’S TIME TIME WORLD CHAMPION: Judith Arndt (Ger)
WOMEN’S OLYMPIC TIME TRIAL CHAMPION: Kristin Armstrong (USA)
You can see Samuel Sanchez winning the Beijing road race in this short highlights video
And what of Team GB? We’re good at this, right?
Correct. Britain boasts a team packed with world-class cyclists that will battle out for the medals in most events, even if new regulations and changes to which events will take place mean that the British team won’t win as many medals as they could have done. Here are the some of the bigger names:
Mark Cavendish Current world champion and winner of the Tour de France’s Green Jersey for best sprinter. If Cavendish is in position with 150metres to go, his rivals will be competing for silver and bronze.
Bradley Wiggins Known as a strong time-triallist, Wiggins has developed into brilliant stage racer, able to stay with the climbers on all but the steepest hills. Will help Cavendish in his pursuit of gold before turning his attention to the time-trial.
Emma Pooley Despite being only 5ft 2ins, Pooley is often head and shoulders above her rivals in the time trial and won the world title in 2010 and finished second at the Olympics in 2008. She fears, however, that the olympic time trial course may suit bigger, stronger riders.
Nicole Cooke 2008 was a stellar year for Cooke as she did the double, winning the Olympic road race and world title. The Welsh wonder, nine-times British national champion, has already shown she is in good form this season and will again be the rider to beat.
And what does Johnny Foreigner have to offer?
Fabian Cancellara The Swiss star won the 2008 Olympic time trial. While some riders win time trials by mere seconds, powerhouse Cancellara is capable of winning even short events by minutes. He is so strong riding on his own, a rival team once accused him of using a motorised bike.
Cadel Evans 2011 Tour De France champion. The Aussie is Australia’s flagbearer at the Games and, although the road race course will suit sprinters, he will be desperate to upstage Cancellara in the time-trial.
Classic Olympic moment?
Spaniard Miguel Indurain’s time-trial gold in 1996. The Tour de France legend, the first man to win the race five consecutive times, had been dethroned on the roads of France that summer finishing a lowly 11th. He turned up in Atlanta still smarting from the criticism and powered to gold, winning by 12 seconds with Britain’s Chris Boardman taking bronze.
So which road are they using? The M25?
Not quite, no. The races will start and finish on The Mall, heading out into leafy Surrey and up the zig-zags of Box Hill nine times in the men’s race and twice in the women’s.
The problem with having loads of cyclists on the road is that you can get some pretty horrendous pile-ups like this one