Cycling at the Rio 2016 Olympics: All you need to know

Track Cycling
Olympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 5-21 August Time in Rio: BST -4
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC Four, Red Button and up to 24 HD video streams on mobile, desktop and connected TVs, plus follow on Radio 5 live and via live text commentary.

The sport in brief: Riders hurtle around an indoor and steeply-banked wooden oval track. The 10 events are split evenly between the sexes. There are three sprint-based events (sprint, team sprint and keirin), one endurance (team pursuit) and the omnium, a decathlon-style discipline comprising five different races.

Anything new for Rio 2016? The women's pursuit teams now have four riders instead of three. The event order and scoring in the omnium has changed to make it more exciting and easier to follow. The one rider per nation rule - which probably cost GB medals in London - has been ditched in the sprint events.

British prospects: Track cycling has been Great Britain's most successful discipline at the past two Olympics and, while the current squad are unlikely to be as dominant in Rio, there should be medals to celebrate. Laura Trott is vying to win gold in both the team pursuit and omnium, while Sir Bradley Wiggins could become the country's most decorated Olympian and Mark Cavendish has the chance to finally get the Olympic medal he has craved for so long.

Who are the favourites? Aside from the British, Australia - whose team includes veteran Anna Meares - and Germany should pick up medals. But the threats will be truly global - eight different countries from four continents shared the 10 gold medals in Olympic events at the most recent World Championships.

I didn't know that: Track bikes have just one fixed gear and no brakes - but can still cost £10,000.

Previous British medallists: 60 (24 gold, 18 silver, 18 bronze)

Most recent golds: 2012: Jason Kenny (men's individual sprint, men's team sprint), Chris Hoy (men's keirin), Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke & Peter Kennaugh (men's team pursuit), Victoria Pendleton (women's keirin), Laura Trott (women's omnium), Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King (women's team pursuit).

Road cycling

The sport in brief: There are two types of event. The road race is a mass start, with riders competing over a lengthy course - 237.4km for men, 136.9km for women. The first to the finish wins gold. Team tactics are vital, with a nation's riders typically pacing their leading man or woman, protecting them from wind resistance and putting them in a position for a sprint finish.

The time trial is simply a race against the clock.

Anything new for Rio 2016? No

British prospects: Lizzie Armitstead is the reigning road race world champion but the mountainous course isn't a natural fit for the 2012 Olympic silver medallist. She is not an out-and-out climber in the manner of three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, a strong contender in both men's events, particularly the time trial given its length and terrain.

Emma Pooley fancies the hilly time trial so much that it lured the 2008 runner-up out of retirement.

Who are the favourites? Italy's 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali - aka the Shark - should be at the sharp end of the road race, along with a powerful Colombian challenge.

France's Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is attempting to win road race and mountain bike gold after previous world titles in both events but both she, and Dutch defending champion Marianne Vos, have had a tough time with injury. Vos' compatriot Anna van der Breggen could have a better chance.

I didn't know that: Chris Froome has recorded a maximum heart rate of 174 beats per minute (bpm) - far lower than the 200bpm of many elite cyclists.

Previous British medallists: Fifteen (two gold, eight silver, five bronze)

Most recent gold 2012: Bradley Wiggins (men's time trial)

Mountain biking

The sport in brief: A breathless, bumpy event that requires riders to marry bravery, endurance and technical skill on a man-made circuit. The first rider to cross the line wins. The event does not have a pre-determined race distance, but rather a target finishing time between 1:25:00 and 1:40:00. The number of laps is decided the day before the first race, depending on weather and track conditions.

Anything new for Rio 2016? No.

British prospects: The only Briton is Grant Ferguson, a World Under-23 Championship bronze medallist, who is not expected to challenge for a medal.

Who are the favourites? France's two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon is bidding to make it a hat-trick after a puncture ruined his chances in London. Absalon and Nino Schurter both have five world titles, but four of the Switzerland rider's victories have come in the past five editions, including 2016.

Another Swiss, Jolanda Neff, is the women's World Cup and European champion. Denmark's Annika Langvad won 2016 world gold, and France's multi-discipline world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is also a threat.

I didn't know that: The Rio 2016 course includes obstacles designed to reflect aspects of local culture, like flip-flops.

Previous British medallists: None

Highest British position: Fifth (Liam Killeen, 2004)

BMX cycling

The sport in brief: BMX cycling is fast and dangerous, with crashes - and injuries - commonplace. The spectacle really begins after an initial time trial which determines seedings. In the subsequent elimination phase, each race features eight cyclists trying to outpace and outmanoeuvre one another over a 400m obstacle course. Riders have three runs each in the knockout rounds before a winner-takes-all one-run final.

Anything new for Rio 2016? The men's format in the quarter-finals has been changed from five runs to three. The lower age limit to compete has been lowered from 19 to 18.

British prospects: Liam Phillips failed to make the final of the World Championships in May but the world number two is still a strong medal hope. His team-mate Kyle Evans earned his first World Cup podium with second in Manchester in April.

Who are the favourites? Latvian Maris Strombergs has won both Olympic gold medals since the sport was introduced and, although he has dropped in the rankings, he did take gold in the final World Cup event before Rio. Olympic champion Mariana Pajon reclaimed her world title in May and has returned to world number one.

I didn't know that: The Oscar-nominated 1971 documentary On Any Sunday, featuring Steve McQueen, which opens with kids imitating motorcyclists by riding their bikes on a dirt track, is widely credited with popularising the nascent BMX across the USA.

Previous British medallists: None

Highest British position: Sixth (Shanaze Reade, 2012)

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