Road cycling made its Paralympic Games debut
at the New York/ Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games. Track cycling joined the Paralympic programme
12 years later, in Atlanta. In road cycling, athletes compete on bicycles,
tandems, handcycles and tricycles. Tandems are used by athletes with visual impairments
(known as stokers), who sit behind their sighted pilot.
Handcycles are used by amputees and paraplegic athletes.
There are five different sport classes. Lower numbers indicate a more severe activity
limitation. Athletes with impairments affecting their
balance and co-ordination ride a tricycle to increase stability.
The lower the class, the greater the loss of co-ordination.
Other athletes ride bicycles, which are often modified for prosthetics.
They compete in five sport classes: C1-C5. The lower the number, the greater the activity
limitation. There are three types of race: road race,
individual time trial, and team relay. Road race distances vary from 30km to 120km
depending on classification and gender. All cyclists start together and the winner
is the first to cross the finish line. Time trials are a race against the clock,
with cyclists leaving the start ramp individually, and the rider recording the fastest time winning.
Time trials are 20-35 km. Team relays are for handcyclists only.
Teams are composed of three athletes from different sport classes (H1 to H5)
and can be mixed men and women. In track cycling, athletes compete on tandems
or bicycles, and there are three types of races:
time trials, pursuit and team sprint. Time trials are completed individually over
500m or 1km, with the fastest time winning. The individual pursuit is raced over 3 or
4km, with athletes starting on opposite sides of the track.
The winner is the athlete with the fastest time or the one who catches up with their
opponent. The team sprint is disputed over three laps
by teams of three cyclists. Each team member must lead for one lap, before
leaving the race. Paralympic cyclists will put on a thrilling
show of lung-busting endurance, explosive speed and tactical intelligence.