Cycling Preview

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will feature five cycling disciplines: BMX freestyle, BMX racing, mountain biking, road cycling and track cycling. BMX freestyle is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo, where several U.S. athletes are expected to be among the favorites. The U.S. Olympic cycling team ranks fifth in the all-time medal table, having earned 55 podium finishes, including five at Rio 2016.

BMX Freestyle
BMX freestyle is a discipline new to the Olympic program where riders perform two-minute runs executing a sequence of tricks on different obstacles contained within a park designed for BMX riders. Such obstacles include spines, walls and box jumps. In competition, riders are judged on quality of their performance, taking into account difficulty, originality, and style. The U.S. Olympic BMX freestyle team includes Perris Benegas, Nick Bruce, Justin Dowell and Hannah Roberts.

BMX Racing
BMX racing traces its origins to Southern California in the 1960s where kids on modified 20-inch Schwinn Stingray bicycles would race around vacant lots. Nowadays, BMX racing is a sprint sport where the starting gate is three stories high and jumps are up to 40 feet in length. From the start lines, riders go from zero to approximately 35 miles per hour, often producing upwards of 2500 watts coming off of an 8-meter-tall starting hill — and that’s only the first two seconds of the race. The U.S. Olympic team includes defending gold medalist Connor Fields, Olympian Corben Sharrah, Payton Ridenour, Felicia Stancil and defending silver medalist Alise Willoughby.

Mountain Biking
The first mountain bike competitions were held in California in the early 1980s. Although there are several sub-disciplines within mountain biking, cross-country is the one which is part of the Olympic program. Cross-country races are held on courses that range in distance from 4 to 6 kilometers with technical descents, forest roads, rocky paths and obstacles. The U.S. team includes Haley Batten, Christopher Blevins, Kate Courtney and Olympian Chloe Woodruff.

Road Cycling
Road cycling has been part of the Olympic program since its first edition in 1896. Today there are two different types of road events during the Games: the road race and the individual time trial. Both the road race and time trial in Tokyo will feature backdrops of Mount Fuji — the men’s road race will climb the lower slopes of Japan’s highest mountain.

During the road race, riders start together as a group, also known as a peloton or field, with countries using team tactics to best position the nation’s rider who is most suited for the course.  During the individual time trial, riders set off individually at regular intervals (one to two minutes apart). The competitor who completes the course in the fastest time is the winner. The U.S. team includes Lawson Craddock, Olympic medalist Chloé Dygert, Brandon McNulty, three-time Olympian Amber Neben, Coryn Rivera, Leah Thomas and Olympic medalist Ruth Winder.

Track Cycling
Track racing dates back to the end of the 19th century, with the first world championships held in 1893. There are six track cycling events contested at the Olympic Games: the keirin, Madison (new to the Olympic program), omnium, team pursuit, individual sprints and team sprint. The U.S. team includes Chloé Dygert pulling double duty, along with Maddie Godby, Adrian Hegyvary, Gavin Hoover, Megan Jastrab, Olympic medalist Jennifer Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams.  

Updated on June 18, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• Team USA will hope to make a big impression in the Olympic debut of BMX freestyle. In 2019, U.S. athletes won two medals at the UCI BMX Freestyle World Championships, including the women’s world championship title with Hannah Roberts claiming the crown, and with Nick Bruce taking the bronze in the men’s competition. As a nation, the U.S. is currently ranked first in the world on both the men’s and women’s side. 

• The U.S. women’s team pursuit squad has some unfinished business to take care of. Having earned a silver medal at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, the team is looking to make the top step this year with returning members Chloé Dygert, individual pursuit world record holder, and Jennifer Valente. Since Rio 2016, the pursuit team has been rebuilt after the retirement of Sarah Hammer and tragic passing of Kelly Catlin. The new team of Dygert, Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams recently won the 2020 team pursuit world championships.

• This could be the last shot for most of the Olympic BMX racing team. By Paris 2024, three riders will be in their early- to mid-30s, and Felicia Stancil would be 29, young for any other walk of life but on the older end of the range for elite BMX racers. Only 19-year-old Payton Ridenour would still be under 25 by Paris.

• 2018 world champion Kate Courtney proved herself unstoppable in the 2019 season, winning three out of four world cups in the first half of the season, ultimately claiming the mountain bike world cup overall title in October of 2019. She placed fifth at the world championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, qualifying the 25-year-old for her first Olympic Games.

• The individual pursuit world record holder, 24-year-old Chloé Dygert is looking to compete across disciplines in both team pursuit, individual time trial and the road race in Tokyo. On the track, Dygert is a seven-time world champion and Olympic medalist from Rio, and on the road she won the time trial world championship in 2019 only to suffer a gruesome crash in 2020 as she sought to defend the title.

• After winning gold at Rio 2016, a first for U.S. men in Olympic BMX racing, Connor Fields landed atop the podium at the 2017 USA BMX Grands as the No. 1 pro. Now Fields, 28, is chasing a historical repeat gold medal in Tokyo. With a win, Connor would match Latvia’s Maris Strombergs’ back-to-back gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. 

• BMX racer Alise Willoughby (née Post) will be competing in her third Olympic Games after her silver medal in Rio. Willoughby, 30, owns five world championship medals including gold in 2017 and 2019. Since 2016, she has been trained by her husband, Austrian Olympic medalist Sam Willoughby, who retired from the sport after acquiring a spinal cord injury during training.

• Hannah Roberts has been one of the world’s top riders in BMX freestyle since winning the first-ever world championship in 2017 as a 17-year-old. Roberts, who turns 20 on Aug. 10, added another world title in 2019, also winning every world cup she entered that season.

• Five-time world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Valente will return to the Olympic stage on the track in 2021. She will compete in the omnium, the Madison, and join 2016 Olympic teammate Chloé Dygert for the team pursuit. At the Tokyo Games, the 26-year-old Valente will aim to become the first U.S. cycling athlete to win three medals at a single Olympic Games and tie Sarah Hammer as the all-time female U.S. Olympic medal leader.

• July 21-August 1, 2021: BMX freestyle competition
• July 29-30, 2021: BMX racing competition
• July 26-27, 2021: Mountain bike competition
• July 24-28, 2021: Road competition
• August 2-8, 2021: Track competition