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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Beginner's guide to road cycling
Riders bunch together during a road race
The road race can be a tactical battle
Olympic road cycling attracts some of the biggest names in the sport.

But unlike the grand tours based in Europe such as the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia, Lance Amrstrong and co will be performing relative sprints.

Instead of toiling for three weeks in the saddle up and down arduous climbs, both the men and women will compete in two single races.

The road race is akin to a single stage in a large tour and will be contested in the first week of the Games.

The time trials are raced against the clock with staggered starting times.

Road race

This is cycling's equivalent of the marathon.

It begins with a mass start and the aim is simply to cross the finishing line first.

In 1920 Henry Kaltenbrun of South Africa believed he had won the road race, but it turned out that Sweden's Harry Stenqvist had been held up at a railway crossing. Taking the stop into account, he was awarded gold for having a better time
The men's race is over 239 kilometres, while the women compete over 120km.

Like a stage of the Tour de France, it is a test of endurance and, ultimately, speed.

Cyclists can legally travel in each other's slipstream, allowing them to conserve energy.

Time trial

Similar to the track time trial, but over a much longer course.

Men compete over 45.8km and women over 31.2km.

Riders set out one by one at 90-second intervals and the one with the best finishing time wins gold.

Riding in the slipstream of another competitor is not allowed. If one cyclist is caught by another, he or she must leave a lateral gap of two metres between them.

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