The 2021 Olympics have already produced multiple memorable bicycle races, between Anna Kiesenhofer’s surprise win in the women’s road race, Tom Pidcock’s dominating win in the men’s MTB race, and Annemiek van Vleuten finally winning a gold medal in the women’s time trial. As an Olympic viewer, what is your favorite Olympic cycling memory?
Fred Dreier @freddreier: You never forget those first Olympics that you watch on television, and I’ll always have fond memories of the first Olympic bike race I ever watched, which was the inaugural mountain bike event in 1996. Still, attending the games is a whole other beast, and seeing things in person automatically makes those memories more valuable. I attended the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to report on the cycling events for VeloNews, and the entire experience was a thrilling and bizarre experience.
I arranged to have a road bicycle while I was there, and riding from my dormitory to the Olympic venues was a real treat. I remember rubbing elbows with all manners of mainstream reporters who knew nothing about cycling. In the men’s road race a rider from Chile and another from El Salvador broke away, right from the gun, and I was asked by several journalists why these guys weren’t on the list of pre-race favorites. Everyone was freaking out about the air quality — the Chinese forbade half of the city from driving, and after two days the air cleared enough to see the distant mountains. My fondest racing memory had to be watching the first-ever BMX race, and seeing American Jill Kintner survive some crazy mid-race carnage to win the bronze medal.
I’d reported on Jill for several years up to that point, and seeing her transition from gravity mountain bike racing to BMX and then win a medal was a thrilling occurrence.
Jim Cotton @jim_c_1985: The entire 2012 Olympics was a pretty big deal for me.
The event came just a few years after I started trying to win race bikes myself and at the very start of my time living in London. For the two weeks of the Games, my home city was taken over by Olympic fever, from public transport disruption to road closures and public parades. It was impossible to ignore the impact on your daily life.
And it was equally impossible to ignore Team GB. I’m no Union Jack-waving Anglophile with posters of the Queen on my wall, but when your home team is ripping it up in your home city at an event of that stature, it’s impossible not to be sucked in.
The British team topped the table with the likes of Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, and Jason Kenny dominating on the track, and Bradley Wiggins took time trial gold just weeks after winning the Tour de France.
It was a once-in-a-generation moment for British cycling, and though I didn’t see any of it in the flesh, just being around the whole hoopla was exciting enough.
Andrew Hood @eurohoody: The 2000 Olympic men’s road race stands out because of how old-school and rotten that race truly was.
In many, it was the beginning of the end of the corner that professional cycling had painted itself in. Everything that was wrong about elite men’s professional cycling played out in that race.
Collusion, doping, and petty rivalries were on full display in the loop course around the suburbs of Sydney.
Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich showed up to expand on their growing Tour de France rivalry, but this time, it was Ullrich’s turn to get a rare payback against the Texan. It was the only second Olympic cycle when professionals were allowed to race, and Ullrich’s Telekom team pulled a fast one on the entire field, with Ullrich sneaking away in the closing laps with pro teammates Alexander Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden.
When the chasing field looked up at a big-screen TV they were shocked to see the leaders up the road, Ullrich and Co. were long gone. The orders came from up high to let Ullrich win the gold in a trade team sweep, a high-water mark for the German who, along with much of the rest of the elite men’s pro peloton, would soon descend into the depths of self-indulgence and deceit.
It would take another decade before the bill was paid up, but the EPO Generation finally had to pay the piper.
That race isn’t a favorite for anyone, but it signaled the beginning of an end of an era. Those Olympic Games marked one of the first races when doping controls for EPO were conducted.
Twenty years later, that Olympic race stands as a measure of the depravity of the sport at the time, and how far it’s come since.
Sadhbh O’Shea @sadhbhOS My favorite memory is the full road program at the 2012 games in London. I was 24 and less than a year into my cycling journalism career, but I had somehow snapped up a role as an Olympic volunteer.
I was a rider liaison, which meant I had to shepherd riders around so that they were in the right place at the right time. It was like trying to corral cats at times, as the riders were prone to riding by at speed as you shouted to tell them they were going in the wrong direction.
Possibly the best part was standing on The Mall just beyond the finish line as Marianne Vos and Lizzie Armitstead (now Deignan) dueled in the sprint for gold. I also stood just meters from Fabian Cancellara as he cried after crashing in the final 15 kilometers of the race.
The crowd noise as Bradley Wiggins rode out of Hampton Court Palace to begin his time trial a few days later was something to behold, too.
Being so near to the action and to see the emotion of it so close was an amazing experience for me and something I will never forget.”