an internationally popular sport conducted on closed courses or the open road. Track racing takes place at a velodrome, usually a banked 1,093.6 ft (.333 km) oval. Olympic medals are awarded in individual and team track events, including the sprint, which features a duel between two finalists. Another track event is the pursuit, in which racers begin at opposite sides of the circuit and attempt to catch each other. The Olympics include road races, but the best-known road events are grueling multiday races, especially the Tour de France (begun in 1903), which covers some 2,500 mi (4,000 km) in more than 20 daily stages. Tour de France cyclists ride for teams that share prize money and employ various strategies to aid each other, but an individual winner emerges from both time trials and races over varied terrain, including downhill mountain rides at speeds above 70 mph (113 kph). The Tour is the best known of cycling's Grand Tours; the Giro d'Italia (begun 1909) and Vuelta a España (begun 1935) are the other two. In 1996 mountain biking, featuring varied off-road events (cross-country, hill climb, slalom), debuted as an Olympic event. Cyclocross, long popular in Europe and gaining in the United States, involves racing around an obstacle-filled course.
In recent years, professional bicycle racing has been marred by revelations of the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Several favorites were barred from the 2006 Tour de France as a result of doping charges, and the winner that year, American Floyd Landis, tested positive for high testosterone levels (and presumed testosterone use) and was ultimately stripped of the title. In addition, the long-dominant Lance Armstrong was accused, after his retirement, of doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and others. A 2012 report on professional bicycle racing the agency revealed the most egregious doping scandal and the most complex conspiracy to date in any competitive sport. It led the International Cycling Union, which governs the sport, to strip Armstrong (who asserted his innocence until 2013) of his Tour de France titles and to bar him for life from the sport.
See T. Hamilton, The Secret Race (with D. Coyle, 2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Sports