The huge popularity and participation rates in cycling on the Continent, in addition to the professional nature of the sport, made the level of competition of the very highest order.
However home soil and the support of a 300,000-strong crowd were always going to give the American riders something of an advantage at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
Alex Grewal, a 23-year-old from Colorado of Sikh and British parentage, faced a troubled route even to make the United States team.
He first had to seek qualification through the trials, and then, just days before the Olympic race was held, he was suspended after a Chinese herbal drink he had taken had returned a positive doping test.
After arguing his case, Grewal was reinstated and joined the rest of the field at the start of the twisting 190km course from downtown Los Angeles to Mission Viejo.
It was a hot day but Grewal was always in the leading pack. With around five kilometres to go, he and the Canadian rider Steve Bauer broke away from the peloton and were left to fight it out for gold on their own.
The two started a game of cat and mouse over the final mile, often slowing down to check the chasing pack could have no impact on their surge to the line.
Grewal slowed sufficiently to give Bauer the lead and it gave him just the tactical advantage he needed.
With around 500m to go the two burst into life and in a whir of elbows and legs made their charge for the finishing line, the crowd surging forward to get a better view of the gripping denouement.
Grewal crossed the line barely a wheel ahead of the deflated Bauer, thrust both arms into the air before collapsing to be treated by his jubilant entourage.
Two Norwegians battled it out for the bronze some 20 seconds in arrears with Dag Otto Lauritzen punching the air as he crossed the line in third place.