Street Bicycle Racing
Though the pros use shorter street cycling races as practice for the Triple Crown races (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and the Road World Cycling Championship), there are many teams that compete in street races. Generally, cyclists do not race individually but as part of a larger, sponsored racing team. In the states, the US Postal Service team is the most famous.
But before we get into the details of street racing, let’s talk about what street bicycles are. Unlike mountain bikes and BMX stunt bikes, road bikes are thin-framed with thin wheels and high pressure tires. In competition, participants must ride road bikes. Road bikes have drop handlebars and can be either single, multiple or fixed gear. They are much lighter than the other styles of bikes, which are made to withstand a beating in the mud.
Now back to the races. Road races start with a gun indicating the release from the pen, and the winner is whoever crosses the finish line first. All single day races are mass start except for time trials, which are solo races. The group races are criterium (short courses), circuit races and road races. In recent years long races with large entrances have been moving towards electronic time keeping similar to that used in marathons.
The Tour de France and other multiple day races are counted in stages. The competitor who wins the most stages is declared the overall winner even if he (or she) does not cross the finish line first.
Road racing is much more popular in Europe than it is in the States, though champions like Lance Armstrong have helped to bring attention to the sport in the past decade.
Bike racing has been part of the Olympics since its modern rebirth. In addition to the distance and time trial road races, there are also BMX, track racing and mountain biking competitions.