Cycling was introduced at the first modern Olympics in 1896. It is one of the five core sports which include cycling, track and field, fencing, gymnastics and swimming. Road and track cycling have been part of nearly every Olympics.
In the 1970s, the advent of mountain bikes helped to create a renewed interest in cycling in the U.S. Mountain biking was first introduced in the 1996 Olympics. Also in the 1970s, BMX racing became a popular sport in Southern California and was added to the Olympic program in 2008. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, tricks were being performed by some BMX racers, which introduced BMX freestyle to the Olympic program in 2020.
At St. Louis 1904, American cyclists were the only ones to compete. Marcus Hurley won four of the seven cycling events and placed third in one event. U.S. favorite, Greg LeMond, missed his chance to compete due to the American-led boycott of the Moscow 1980 Games.
Women’s road racing was first contested at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Connie Carpenter-Phinney won the gold medal, becoming the first female Olympic cycling champion. Because of a Soviet-led boycott, several top cyclists were absent from the Games. American Mark Gorski won the final of the men’s sprint, the first medal earned by a U.S. cyclist since 1900. The U.S. won nine medals in total: four gold, three silver and two bronze.
American Kristin Armstrong won the women’s time trial at the Beijing 2008 Games, the only gold medal won by the U.S. cycling team that year. Armstrong had retired but returned to compete at the London 2012 Games where her victory made her cycling’s oldest female gold medalist.
American Connor Fields won the U.S. its first Olympic BMX gold medal at the Rio 2016 Games. American Kristin Armstrong won her third straight gold medal in women’s time trial, becoming the oldest Olympic women’s cycling medalist ever.
Cycling was first introduced at the Paralympics in the 1984 Games in New York. Only road events for athletes with cerebral palsy were included. At the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games, only athletes with visual impairments competed. At Barcelona 1992, more classes of impairment were included and then in the Atlanta 1996 Games, track events were added to the Paralympic program. Paralympic cyclists race on either a bicycle, tricycle, tandem or hand cycle, depending upon their impairment.