Shortly after the introduction of bicycles, competitions developed independently in many parts of the world. Early races involving boneshaker style bicycles were predictably fraught with injuries. As the bicycle evolved its various forms, different racing formats developed. Road races may involve both team and individual competition, and are contested in various ways. They range from the one-day road race, criterium, and time trial to multi-stage events like the Tour de France and its sister events which make up cycling’s Grand Tours.
Cycle sport is competitive physical activity using bicycles. There are several categories of bicycle racing including road bicycle racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, mountain bike racing, track cycling, BMX, and cycle speedway. Non-racing cycling sports include artistic cycling, cycle polo, freestyle BMX and mountain bike trials. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the world governing body for cycling and international competitive cycling events. The International Human Powered Vehicle Association is the governing body for human-powered vehicles that imposes far fewer restrictions on their design than does the UCI.
The UltraMarathon Cycling Association is the governing body for many ultra-distance cycling races. Road bicycle racing involve both team and individual competition, and races are contested in various ways. They range from the one-day road race, criterium, and time trial to multi-stage events like the Tour de France and its sister events which make up cycling’s Grand Tours. The races typically take place from spring through to autumn. Many riders from the northern hemisphere spend the winter in countries, to compete or train.
Professional races range from the three-week “Grand Tour” stage races. Track cycling encompasses races that take place on banked tracks or velodromes. Events are quite diverse and can range from individual and team pursuits, two-man sprints, to various group and mass start races. Competitors use track bicycles which do not have brakes or freewheels. Cyclo-cross originated as a sport for road racers during the off season, to vary their training during the cold months.
Races typically take place in the autumn and winter (the international or World Cup season is September–January) and consist of many laps of a 2–3 km or 1–2 mile course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills, and obstacles requiring the rider to dismount, carry the bike and remount in one motion. Races for senior categories are generally between 30 minutes and an hour long, the distance varying depending on the conditions.