Tokyo Olympics: Cycling

  • 01/01/2021


Cycling has been one of the foundation Olympic sports and one of the few that has featured at every Games since Athens 1896.

The road event was dropped for 12 years in the early 20th century and was contested by only amateurs until Atlanta 1996. Women made their first appearance at Los Angeles 1984.

Men and women will contest both a hilly road race (over 244km & 147km respectively) and an individual time trial (44.2km & 22.1km).

The Netherlands have won more gold medals than any other nation on the road, especially among the women, where Marianne Vos and Anna van der Breggen have swept the last two titles.

As reigning world road race and time trial champion, Van der Breggen will be tough to beat again.

New Zealand has never medalled in road cycling, but has qualified two spots in the men’s events, and will be represented by Grand Tour regulars George Bennett and Patrick Bevin.  

NZ Team

George Bennett - men's road race & time trial

Patrick Bevin - men's road race & time trial


Track Cycling

Track cycling has been missing from just one Olympics programme - Stockholm 1912 - with women making their first appearance at Seoul 1988.

The schedule will see men and women contest exactly the same events - sprint, team sprint, keirin, team pursuit, omnium and madison.

European powerhouses France, Italy and Great Britain have dominated cycling medal hauls, and New Zealand’s best track success has come in an event no longer contested - individual pursuit.

Sarah Ulmer won the women’s event at Athens 2004, Hayden Roulston took silver at Beijing 2008 and Gary Anderson captured bronze at Barcelona 1992. 

Our only current world champion is Corbin Strong, whose points race is also missing from Tokyo, so New Zealand’s strongest medal chances probably lie with former world omnium champion Campbell Stewart, who may also feature in the men’s madison and team pursuit.

NZ Team

Ellesse Andrews - women’s sprint & keirin

Rushlee Buchanan - women’s madison

Sam Dakin - men’s keirin

Holly Edmondston - women’s omnium

Jesse Hodges - women’s madison

Kirstie James - women’s sprint & keirin

Ethan Mitchell - men’s sprint

Sam Webster - men’s sprint & keirin

Dakin, Mitchell & Webster - men’s team sprint

Aaron Gate, Regan Gough, Jordan Kerby, Campbell Stewart & Corbin Strong - men’s team pursuit

Bryony Botha, Buchanan, Edmondston & Jaime Nielsen - women’s team pursuit

Five To Watch

Laura Kenny (Great Britain)

One half of British cycling's golden couple, Kenny and husband Jason will aim to add to their heaving trophy cabinets on the Izu velodrome boards.

Endurance specialist Kenny won team pursuit and omnium gold, as Britain dominated at London 2012 and repeated in Rio four years later to become her country's most decorated female Olympian, although she is two behind Jason's six.

The 29-year-old boasts a huge engine to drive the pursuit squad and a shrewd tactical brain in the bunched omnium events, and the year delay will have helped the young mum get back to peak fitness, after suffering some heavy crashes.

Mariana Pajon (Colombia)

The queen of BMX racing, Pajon is Colombia's most successful Olympian, after winning gold medals at London and Rio.

She stands only 1.57m (5ft 2in), but stick her on a BMX bike and she turns into a pocket rocket over the jumps.

A huge name in Colombia, Pajon will be tough nut to crack for anyone trying to ride off with her title.

"When I put my helmet on, it's like I am going to battle, I am a warrior," she says. "I won't stop, even if it hurts."

Chloe Dygert (USA)

The American speedster is already a world champion on the track and road, and will have gold-medal ambitions on both at Tokyo.

The Indiana native, known for her pink socks and wheels, was in a class of her own at the 2020 world track championships, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

She powered the American trio to a crushing victory over Britain in the team pursuit at Berlin and smashed the world record twice on her way to gold in the individual time trial.

Chloe Dygert in action at the world championships
Chloe Dygert in action at the world championships. Photo credit: Getty

A year before, she blazed to road time trial gold at the world championships in Yorkshire, leaving the formidable Dutch armada in her wake.

She suffered a horrible crash last year at the world road time trial at Imola, requiring surgery on a deep leg laceration and halting her in her tracks, but if she is fully recovered, she could light up the Olympics.

Harrie Laverysen (Netherlands)

In the high-octane world of men's sprinting, the flying Dutchman has set the standard in the last few years and will be favourite to end Jason Kenny's domination of the track sprints.

The 24-year-old won sprint, team sprint and keirin gold at the 2020 Berlin world championships and a repeat of that would not be a surprise in Tokyo, although fellow Dutchman Jeffrey Hoogland will be serious rival in the individual event.

"I think, if everything goes to the form book, then it would be a huge surprise if Harrie Lavreysen or Jeffrey Hoogland didn't win the men's sprint," says Britain's six-time Olympic champion Chris Hoy.

"They have consistently been head and shoulders above the rest of the world for the last four years."

Filippo Ganna (Italy)

'La Bestia', as the Italian flying machine is known by his teammates, was so far ahead of his rivals at the 2020 world road time trial at Imola that he could have been in a Ferrari.

While the Tokyo course is a little longer and features a tough climb, sprint specialist Ganna will be confident of becoming Italy's seventh men's champion in the discipline.

On the boards, he will be a key part of Italy's team pursuit squad and a contender for gold in the omnium.