Bicycle motorcross, or BMX cycling, will make only its second Olympic appearance at the 2012 London Olympic Games in the U.K. BMX races for Olympic medals promise to be fast and furious, with eight riders racing around courses over 400 meters in around 40 seconds.
The International Olympic Committee confirmed the entrance of BMX racing as an Olympic sport on June 29 2003, with the first appearance of the cycling discipline at the 2008 Beijing Games. The first Olympic champions in BMX racing were Latvia's Maris Strombergs in the men's discipline, and France's Anne-Caroline Chausson for women, according to Australia's ABC Network.
Despite its only recent inclusion in the Olympics, BMX racing has been a popular sport since its invention in the 1960s. Cycling's version of motorized motocross was invented as a cheap alternative to the motorized sport by children and teenagers who wanted to race without the expense of buying a motorcycle and safety equipment.
Although BMX bicycles must be strong enough to withstand numerous impacts during a race, they are manufactured with a lightweight frame, a single gear, and only one brake. To begin each race, the riders start at the top of a ramp, which allows a fast pace to be built and carried onto the course. At the London Olympics, the specially built BMX track at Olympic Park starts with an eight meter high ramp, races can be won and lost with the start of each rider on the ramp. The Olympic BMX track for the 2012 Games is constructed from dirt, and is made up of bumps, jumps and tight, high banked turns called berms.
Taking place from August 8-10 2012, the BMX cycling competitions take place next to the velodrome, where track cycling medals will be fought over. As the Olympic competition consists of a number of heats, and later rounds, individual time trials will be held over the course during the first day of competition. Riders will then be seeded by their times, in an attempt to keep the riders with the best chance of winning medals apart in the early rounds of the competition.
Paul Cartmell has been riding in a variety of bicycle disciplines, including road racing, mountain bikes and BMX as an amateur for over twenty years.