Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Olympics

Your guide to cycling at the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo

Here's a guide to help you follow the cycling events at the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Note: This story first appeared on our sister site, CyclingTips.com. You can read CyclingTips’ full coverage of the Paralympics Games here

With the Tokyo Olympics now complete, it’s time for the world’s best para athletes to take center stage. The Tokyo Paralympics began on Tuesday, August 24, and runs through Sunday, September 5.

Here’s a guide to understanding the rules, categories, and classifications for the para cycling events.

The classifications

To understand the dizzying array of medal events at the Paralympics, you first need to understand paracycling classifications.

In paracycling, athletes are divided into ‘sport classes’ according to the type and severity of their impairment(s). You can see a detailed breakdown of applicable impairments on page 33 of this UCI document, but in essence, there are eight impairments that make an athlete eligible for paracycling:

  • Impaired muscle power (e.g. due to a spinal cord injury)
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Limb deficiency (e.g. one or more amputations)
  • Leg length difference
  • Hypertonia: an increase in muscle tension and the reduced ability of a muscle to stretch, caused by damage to the central nervous system (e.g. via cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or a stroke)
  • Ataxia: uncoordinated movements caused by damage to the central nervous system (e.g. via cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or a stroke)
  • Athetosis: continual slow involuntary movements (e.g. via cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or a stroke)
  • Vision impairment (reduced or no vision)

There are minimum impairment criteria that an athlete must reach in order to be eligible for paracycling classification, and standardized tests that officials use when classifying riders (see page 34 o the UCI guidelines for more info). Different levels of impairment correspond with different classes, with lower numbers indicating a greater level of impairment.

As you’ll see below, some classes race together while others have their own medal event.

Here are the cycling classes you’ll see in action in Tokyo.

H 1-5

Division H events are contested by handcyclists. Photo: Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Division H events are contested by handcyclists. Lower numbers (e.g. H1 and H2) indicate athletes with restrictions to both upper and lower limbs, while higher numbers (e.g. H4 and H5) indicate restrictions to their upper limbs only.

Athletes in classes H1-4 race on recumbent (i.e. reclined) bikes while H5 athletes use bikes that facilitate a kneeling or sitting position.

T 1-2

T-1 and T-2 events see paracyclists ride on tricycles. Photo: Brett Keating/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Division T races are contested by athletes who ride tricycles, due to reduced balance and/or a severe restriction that prevents them from riding a bicycle.

The T1 class is for athletes with more significant coordination impairments, while T2 athletes have less significant impairments.

C 1-5

Division C athletes ride modified standard bicycles that accommodate their bodies. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Division C athletes ride a standard bicycle, often modified to accommodate their impairment(s). For instance, an athlete with an arm impairment might use differently shaped handlebars.

Lower-numbered classes (e.g. C1-2) indicate a more severe limitation in lower and/or upper limbs.

B

Division B riders compete on tandem bicycles piloted by a sighted athlete. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Division B is for vision-impaired athletes who ride a tandem bike piloted by a sighted athlete. Tandem pilots must not be part of a UCI-registered team, and must not have been part of a WorldTeam or ProTeam for the previous 12 months.

Factored events

Factored events are those that include athletes from different classes and where riders’s times are scaled in order to take into account the severity of each competitor’s impairment(s). The goal is to ensure equity between classes.

Some athletes will have their results ‘factored’, while others will not. The gold medal in such events is handed to the rider with the fastest time after all times have been factored.

As an example, here are the factors that apply to Division C road cycling events (you can find tables for other divisions in section 16.1.005 of the UCI’s Paracycling regulations).

In the women’s C 1-2-3 time trial in Tokyo, for example, C3 women will get whatever time they ride against the clock. C2 women will be given a time that’s 96.15 percent of their finishing time, and for C1 women that percentage is 92.45 percent. The rider with the lowest time after all these calculations will win gold.

One quirk of this system is that a rider can break a world record for their specific class, but not win the event. Note that while some time trials are factored events, the equivalent road races are not.

A table showing the UCI’s table for factoring events.

Road races and time trials

Andrea Eskau of Germany competes in the Women’s Time Trial H4-5 during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 14 September 2016. Photo: Jens Buettner/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Here’s the full schedule of road cycling medal events at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Road races: 

And below is a breakdown of all the road races by category.

Men Women Mixed
H 1-2 road race

H 3 road race

H4 road race

C 1-2-3 road race

C 4-5 road race

B road race

T 1-2 road race

H 1-2-3-4 road race

H5 road race

C 1-2-3- road race

C 4-5 road race

B road race

T 1-2 road race

H 1-5 team relay

 

All road races (except the mixed team relay) will take place on the same 13.2km circuit that starts and finishes at the Fuji International Speedway. It’s a lumpy circuit, defined by a 3.5km climb to the finish line.

The number of laps will vary between classes. All road races will be held between Wednesday, September 1 and Friday, September 3.

Time trials

Rio , Brazil – 14 September 2016; Colin Lynch of Ireland in action during the Men’s Time Trial C2 at the Pontal Cycling Road during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo By Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

All classes will race on an undulating 8km time trial course within the Fuji International Speedway complex. As with the road races, the number of laps will depend on the class. All time trials will be held on Tuesday, August 31.

Men Women
H 1 ITT

H 2 ITT

H 3 ITT

H 4 ITT

H 5 ITT

C 1 ITT

C 2 ITT

C 3 ITT

C 4 ITT

B ITT

T 1-2 ITT (Factored)

H 1-2-3 ITT (Factored)

H 4-5 ITT (Factored)

C 1-2-3 ITT (Factored)

C 4 ITT

C 5 ITT

B ITT

T 1-2 ITT (Factored)

 

Team relay

Italy won the men’s Team Relay in 2016. Photo: Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The mixed team relay will be contested by teams of three handcyclists. Each rider will complete three laps of a flattish 2.8 km Fuji Speedway course, for a total of nine laps per team. Riders two and three may start their laps when the previous rider crosses the finish line.

Team composition is governed by a points system, with athletes allocated points based on their gender and impairment(s). Each team of three must only have a maximum of nine points, and must include an athlete with a maximum score of two points. Here’s the course and profile for the mixed relay. The mixed team relay will be held on Thursday, September 2.

This table shows the points system for the team relay.

Track cycling

Cyclist Erich Winkler of Germany competes in the Cycling Track – Men’s C1 3000M Individual Pursuit Qualification of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 09 September 2016. Winkler’s prothesis departed from the pedal. He was allowed by the jury to repeat his heat and qualified for the bronze medal race. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Here are all of the track cycling medal events that’ll be happening at the 250-meter Izu Velodrome.

Men Women Mixed
C 1-2-3 Kilo (Factored)

C 4-5 Kilo (Factored)

C 1 Pursuit

C 2 Pursuit

C 3 Pursuit

C 4 Pursuit

C 5 Pursuit

B Kilo

B Pursuit

 

C 1-2-3 500m (Factored)

C 4-5 500m (Factored)

C 1-2-3 Pursuit

C 4 Pursuit

C 5 Pursuit

B Kilo

B Pursuit

C 1-5 Team Sprint

Here’s a breakdown of the various disciplines and what they entail:

The ‘Kilo’

A 1km (four-lap) time trial contested by Division B (vision-impaired) men and women, and Division C (standard bicycle) men. Division C women contest this discipline over 500 meters (two laps).

Pursuit

An individual pursuit, with two riders starting on opposites sides of the track. First across the finish line wins. Division B men and C4-5 men and women race over 4,000 meters. C1-3 men and women, plus Division B women all race over 3,000m.

Team sprint

Raced by mixed-gender teams of three Division C riders over three laps. After each lap, the lead rider peels off, allowing the remaining rider(s) to continue on to the line.

A team is allowed a maximum of 10 points when selecting its line-up, with riders allocated points according to their gender and impairment(s).

All track cycling events will be held from Wednesday, August 25 to Saturday, August 28. Follow the link for a full schedule of track cycling events at the Tokyo Paralympics for more information.