With the growing popularity of the sport of cycling, the following outline has been designed to provide a brief sketch and address specific questions regarding this sport.
Basically, there are two distinct disciplines of cycling: Track and Road Racing.
Track events are similar to running in that they are held on a piste (velodrome) and are short and fast. This type of race may range from 200
meter sprint to a 30 mile points race. In this country there are about 15 bicycle tracks.
Road events take place on city streets that are normally used by cars. They range in distance from 30 to 150 miles. Americans are particularly fond of criterium style road races in which the racers complete laps of one-half to two mile circuits for a total of, for instance, 50 miles. Since the competitors pass by every couple of minutes, this type of race is ideal for spectators.
The second genre of road racing includes the longer circuit or point to point course. The Olympic Road Race is a good example of a road event in which the athletes compete at a distance of 120 miles by riding a 10 mile loop 12 times. When one day competitions are combined to form a multi-day event, it is called a stage race. Generally, the racers begin and end at different locations each day, with the rider who has the lowest cumulative time after the last stage winning the overall classification. The stage race can last from two to 22 days, and is considered the most grueling, but also the most storied, type of race. A well known example is the Tour de France, or in the US, the Tour DuPont.
As with most sports, bicycle racers can be both professional or amateur. In the US, most races allow both pro and amateur riders to participate in the same event. In Europe, the immense following of cycling has created a distinct professional class, something which has been steadily growing here in the states.
This serves as a brief introduction to the sport of cycling. In reading the rest of the package, keep in this primer in mind.