Over recent decades the major successes of German racing cyclists in the big tours, the one-day classics and on the track temporarily boosted interest in cycle racing and made people more willing to try cycle racing themselves. Worthy of special mention are Jan Ullrich who in 1997 became the first and only German who has so far won the Tour de France, and Erik Zabel who notched up over 200 victories in his professional career. Professional racing cyclists were celebrated like stars. The sport's popularity only tailed off when the widespread doping scandals curbed interest in racing cycling.
Today there are numerous formal cycle sport disciplines: road racing, cycling marathons, amateur races, track cycling, mountain biking, cyclocross, skill cycling such as BMX, mountain bike orienteering and the indoor cycling disciplines of trick cycling, cycle ball and cycle polo, etc. Spinning or indoor cycling has developed as a form of cycling training and a form of fitness training in its own right.
Training starts early
The bicycle became an item of sports equipment very early on – even the penny-farthing inspired sporting artistry. The people who rode it were seen as daring, adventurous and courageous. In the 1870s they attracted a lot of attention with their "adventure tours".
The first road race is said to have taken place in the French city of Amiens in 1865, and in 1867 this was followed by the world's first ever one-day race with a field of about 100 cyclists – all male of course! The race covered a distance of 123 kilometres, beginning in Paris and ending in Rouen. From that point onwards cycle racing developed at break-neck speed. Just a year later the first track race, a 1,200 metre sprint, took place on a horse tramway at Saint-Cloud park in Paris. In the same year, the first cycle race for women was held in Bordeaux. The first circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle is said to have taken place between 1884 and 1886. In Germany the first cycle racing club in the world was founded at Altona in 1869. It is said to have held the first velocipede race in Germany.
From 1896 onwards Olympic cycle racing history was written. Cycle racing played a key role in popularising cycling. Numerous cycle racing clubs sprang up, as well as a cycle racing culture all of its own.