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Bicycles were first developed in the mid-18th century and have been a popular form of transport ever since.
In 1885, cycling took a big leap forward when J.K. Starley devised the chain-and-gearing system. Since then, engineers have embraced modern technology to build ever faster, sleeker and lighter bikes.
From 1880 to 1900, cycling became immensely popular both in Europe and the United States. The professional sport maintained its place in the public imagination, especially in Europe. Over the last 20 years, road cycling has experienced an movement towards globalization.
Like fencing and athletics, cycling is among the rare sports that have always featured on the Olympic programme. Road cycling, however, was not on the programme of the Paris 1900, St Louis 1904 or London 1908 Games.
The first road event in Olympic history took place in 1896 on the marathon route at the first Games of the modern era in Athens. The race started in Athens, headed towards Marathon, then returned to Athens, at the Phaliron velodrome.
Since the 1912 Games in Stockholm, the individual pursuit has been organised at each edition of the Games. The team time trial was on the programme between 1912 and 1992. 1996 marked the debut of the individual time trial at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Olympic cycling was added to the women’s programme in Los Angeles in 1984, with an individual road event. Later, in 1996, the individual time trial was included in women’s Olympic cycling, as it for the men’s.
The Europeans have always dominated Olympic cycling, particularly through the contribution of the French and Italians. Eastern European countries have also won many Olympic medals, especially in track cycling.