The countdown is on: exactly one year from today, the Olympic flame will arrive in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, marking the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
As has become the tradition, cycling’s first Olympic Champion of the Games will be crowned the following day, in the Men’s road race at the Fuji International Speedway. The following sixteen days of competition will see 22 Olympic titles – 11 each for men and women – awarded across cycling’s five Olympic disciplines: road, track, mountain bike, BMX Racing and, for the first time ever, BMX Freestyle.
Cycling has a long connection with the Olympic movement and is one of five sports – alongside athletics, fencing, gymnastics and swimming – that has been contested at every Summer Games since 1896, when track cycling and road cycling were on the programme. One hundred years later, mountain bike became part of the Olympic programme, at Atlanta 1996. In 2008 in Beijing, BMX Racing joined the Olympic adventure, and in Tokyo one of cycling’s youngest disciplines enters the Olympic arena: BMX Freestyle Park. Another cycling addition to the 2020 programme is the Men’s and Women’s Madison. Last contested at Beijing 2008, this marks a return of the exciting team track race for men, while the women will contest the Madison for the first time at Olympic level.
Just 365 days out from the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony, riders are on the hunt for qualification points, while organisers and officials are turning their attention to the technical details. Test events are programmed for all five disciplines, and the first of these - for road – took place on Sunday.
Nine national teams and 11 UCI Teams and Japanese teams travelled to Tokyo for this important event which saw riders tackle a 179km course – modified from the men’s official 2020 distance of 234km – with an elevation gain of 3700 metres and taking in the Olympic route’s decisive climbs: Doshi Road, Kagosaka Pass and Mikuni Pass.
Tokyo 2020 Sports Director Koji Murofushi said: “Tokyo 2020 were delighted to welcome riders from around the world to experience first-hand the 2020 Olympic a big part of road race course and the challenges it holds. We are also grateful for our successful collaboration with the UCI and the local stakeholders in delivering this test event, which marks an important step in our preparations for the Olympic Games. It was a great pleasure to share this delightful moment with the many Japanese cycling fans who lined the course and cheered on the riders.”
“This test event was a great success and gave us a foretaste of what to expect in 2020 with great racing and a huge turnout of residents cheering on the riders. The UCI has been working closely with the Tokyo 2020 organisers to ensure that the road cycling events are challenging, safe and spectacular. Tokyo has something very special to offer with the opportunity to start the Olympic road races in Tokyo and taking the race towards the Mount Fuji region to finish on the Fuji International Speedway, said UCI Head of Road Matthew Knight. It was also an important opportunity to test the technological improvements we have introduced since Rio 2016 which will enable us to better guarantee fair competition and also greatly enhance appeal for viewers.”
These technological improvements, for both the men’s and women’s road races, will improve spectator viewing thanks to information displayed on the giant public screen:
- A continuous summary of the race situation (distance to the finish, running time, current speed, map showing the position of riders on the course, composition of groups, gaps with leaders) thanks to the use of GPS tracking data;
- Race facts (description of what has happened, where, and which riders are involved) sourced from the Radio Tour;
- Picture of photo finish – in the case of a close finish – to confirm the finishing order.
On-screen race facts will also be provided at the mountain bike races, cycling’s only other Olympic discipline where the riders are not always in view of the spectators. Meanwhile, the display of photo finishes applies to all the cycling disciplines in Tokyo except BMX Freestyle, which does not involve a race to the finish line.
UCI President David Lappartient said: “To enhance the appeal of cycling is a key element of the UCI’s Agenda 2022, and these new technological enhancements are an important part of this mission. The test event in Tokyo on Sunday demonstrated that the Olympic road race is going to be a spectacular event and we look forward to the test events for our four other Olympic disciplines.”
The next Tokyo 2020 test events will be held for mountain bike on 6 October 2019, for BMX Racing on 12-13 October 2019, for track cycling on 11-12 April 2020 and for BMX Freestyle also on 11-12 April 2020.
Tokyo 2020 test event results (road race)